So the celebrities are back in the jungle; 100,000 wannabe pop stars have been whittled down to 12 to face Simon Cowell's constructive criticism; and 12 couples are dancing their hearts out in the hope of triumph in Brucie's ballroom.
Reality TV is big business. But don’t forget the soap operas. Before Big Brother and the recent wave of ‘D-list’ celebrity bashing programmes, the soaps could almost have passed for reality TV themselves.
We all know that some members of the public have difficulty divorcing fiction from reality. So when a soap character physically abuses his on-screen wife, the poor actor playing the role finds himself being abused in public by people who thought he was beating up his wife for real.
What’s all this got to do with protection I can hear you ask? Well, I was reading the other day that a character in Coronation Street, Cilla Battersby, is hiding the fact that she has been diagnosed with skin cancer (as a result of spending so much time on her sunbed!). She’s hiding her illness from Les and is undergoing treatment without his knowledge.
Soap opera story lines like this can be a good way of educating the public and reflecting reality. In this instance, it gets across the message that if you sunbathe too much without protective sunscreen you increase the risk of developing malignant melanoma. It also enables people to identify with what the character is going through and in some instances people may even be given some indirect advice about how to seek treatment or cope with its after effects.
But one thing that you never see in a soap opera storyline is any associated comment on the financial effects of what happens to people in scenarios like this.
Wouldn't it be great if when Les finally finds out about Cilla's illness he goes rummaging in the filing cabinet and finds that critical illness policy he took out several years ago? Now he can offer her support during her treatment and he can use the sum assured from the policy to pay off the mortgage, clean up the house (because ardent Corrie fans will know that the Battersby House is a real mess), and still be able to afford to buy the complete back catalogue of Status Quo.
What a great way of raising awareness of the value of protection products and of demonstrating how they could make a difference to a character's financial circumstances.
Of course, cynically you would expect if there was a storyline involving a protection product it is more likely that the producers would make it a declined claim which would end up further sullying the industry's reputation rather than enhancing it. But I can't help feeling that, in a country where many agree we need more education on financial matters, well placed storylines in soap operas could actually have a positive educational effect.
I remember thinking many years ago when Alf Roberts passed away on New Year's Eve, wouldn't it have been good if he had had a life policy?
As it turned out he didn't and Audrey nearly lost the house. Over 17 million people watch Corrie - what a great opportunity to get across a positive message about the value of life cover across. After all, the advertisement break in Coronation Street is one of the most sought after slots.
The real reality of protection is that the majority of people still do not understand the need for protection, nor do they understand the difference between the many products on offer
The industry needs to find new and interesting ways of communicating those needs. Who knows - we have product placement in TV shows - how long will it be before we get storyline placement? Now I'll have to go because I've just spotted Bradley Walsh walking past and I must catch him to tell him exactly what I think of the way he’s been treating Frankie!
Roger Edwards is product director at Bright Grey.
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of the company he represents.IFAonline
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