A health insurance ad that used imagery of Britain’s worst-ever mass murderer has been banned by the UK’s The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The social media ad for life insurance firm Dead Happy first appeared in January (read B&T’s original reporting HERE) and featured an image of the notorious Harold Shipman, a British GP who was convicted of killing 15 of his elderly patients but was suspected of killing as many as 260 people.
Shipman was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2000, however hanged himself in jail four years later.
Dead Happy’s ad, which first circulated on Facebook, comes with the caption: “Life Insurance. Because you never know who your doctor might be”, and features a large photograph of Shipman.
ASA said it had received 115 complaints about the ad and promptly banned it.
The ASA acknowledged DeadHappy said it was never their intention to offend but said the ads “trivialised and made light of the murders committed by Harold Shipman, such that they were likely to cause both serious and widespread offence to those who saw them”.
It said any reference to the murderer in advertising material was “likely to be distressing, particularly for those who had lost family members or friends at Shipman’s hands and that, in the context of an ad promoting life insurance the distress caused was unjustified”.
When the controversial campaign first launched, Dead Happy CEO Andy Knott defended the work, telling FT Adviser: “We are called DeadHappy and our strapline is ‘Life insurance to die for’ so we are aware of the provocative (and to some the very shocking) nature of our brand.”
However, the insurer has since taken a far more conciliatory tone following ASA’s ban. A spokesperson for the brand said: “In our attempt to be provocative and make people really stop and think about their need for life insurance, we have made a mistake and for this we apologise.
“We will now go away and immediately review all of our current and future marketing campaigns to ensure that we learn from this mistake.”
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