About two years ago in this very blog, I debated how good it would be if we could have 'storyline placement' in soap operas and reality TV shows.
The idea started about a decade ago when Alf Roberts died in Coronation Street on New Year's Eve. His life assurance provider wouldn't pay out because they claimed that the policy ended at midnight on New Year's Eve and Alf could have passed away after that.
I remember thinking that it would be a good opportunity for the industry to respond and say 'of course we wouldn't be so cruel.'
My thoughts were dismissed by most at the time (infact I think it was only Peter Le Beau who agreed with me) but I couldn't help wondering whether we missed a trick - especially as viewing figures for Corrie were then around the 20 million mark.
My story placement idea effectively looked to put a protection orientated storyline into a soap in the same way as a cereal manufacturer might place one of their brands on the kitchen table of the Rovers Return.
It could be a character being diagnosed with a critical illness finding that they actually had a policy to pay off the mortgage.
Or more likely knowing soap script writers the character would initially panic, borrow some money from an extremely scary loan shark, and just when the villain had sent the boys round with baseball bats to get his money back - the critical illness policy would come to the rescue.
Of course we haven't got there yet. Putting cereal boxes on tables is much easier than doctoring scripts to promote protection products which are much more intangible.
But there is a glimmer of hope. Just back from a recent holiday, my wife and I were sat fighting off the jet lag by browsing through the hard drive on the DVD recorder and catching up on Corrie, Lost and 24, (my wife was also catching up on Emmerdale but I have to draw the line somewhere).
There was Joe McIntyre stretched out on the sofa wincing in agony (he had put his back out lifting kitchen units) being tormented by new Corrie villain Len Windass. Joe is worried that he won't be able to support the family because he won't be earning until he is back on his feet.
Then comes the magic moment. Len leans forward and says, "What? You mean you don't have INCOME PROTECTION INSURANCE?"
As my brain was still inhabiting a time zone five hours behind the one at home, it took a few seconds to cotton on to what Len had said. I quickly whipped out the remote control, rewound the hard drive and watched again.
"What? You mean you don't have income protection insurance." I then had to watch it a third time.
It was true. Finally what we all do day to day finds its way into a soap script. And whilst the days when 20 million people watching soaps has long past, it's still a huge number who do, so you never know it might have just pricked the conscience of one or two viewers.
I would love to see more of this. We shouldn't be afraid of such media. There are some people who think that soap characters are real and some might even look up to them. Soaps and reality TV have become such an important part of modern culture that it makes sense that they become a communication channel for such messages - just look at the publicity surrounding the sad death of Jade Goody and what she has done to raise awareness of cervical cancer.
The possibilities for highlighting issues through popular culture are endless. Perhaps the protection advertising consortium set up by Tom Baigrie should look at this potential approach?
Getting protection stories into the cult TV series 'Lost', however, could prove to be very interesting. A character could die in the real world, get resurrected on the island and then live the rest of their life on their own life assurance payout.
Roger Edwards is proposition director at Bright GreyIFAonline
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