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Right in the feels.

A THAI ADVERTISEMENT FOR LIFE INSURANCE--that is fairly typical of most Thai life insurance ads--is going viral on the internet right now. It is a deeply emotional little story of a regular guy who performs little acts of random kindness every day.

While walking to work, he moves a potted tree on the sidewalk so it's underneath a building's rainspout, collecting water. He helps a street vendor push her cart up over a steep curb, onto the sidewalk. He gives part of his lunch to a stray dog. He gives more cash than he can afford to a beggar and her little daughter so the girl can go to school. He hangs a bunch of bananas on his elderly neighbor's door knob. And at the end of his day, he returns to his humble apartment, eats a meager dinner, says his prayers and goes to sleep.

The ad says that he will never become rich or famous for doing any of these things. And what does he get in return? At first, we see the vendor chew him out for being late to help him. We see the dog expect more and more food. We see the beggars hoping he gives more to them. He gives until it hurts. And everywhere, we see bystanders shake their heads at this overly generous fool.

Then the ad turns. He gets love back. He sees the tree grow. He witnesses the vendor lighten up. The dog becomes his true companion. The elderly neighbor hugs him. And one day, when he sees the beggar mother, the child is no longer there ... until she shows up in a school uniform, paid for by our hero's generosity. She made it.

The ad never once mentions life insurance. It just extols the virtue of selfless giving and how it enriches the life of the giver and of the recipient. And it is done in such a way that by the time it's all over, you'd swear somebody was chopping onions at your desk.

I love Thai life insurance ads. They hit you right in the feels," as my kids would say, and make a very direct and very emotional plea to buy life insurance because somebody you love needs it very, very much. According to this ad, buying life insurance is all about being a responsible adult. A loving family member. A good person.

So many producers and carrier executives bemoan the fact that life insurance sales aren't what they could be because people don't understand the need, and because the products are too complex. That is irrelevant. People don't buy life insurance because they don't feel sufficiently obligated to. You know what obligates people? Guilt. And people should feel guilty for not insuring themselves. They really should. If you can afford $20 a week on beer or cigarettes or coffee, then you can afford a simple term policy. Grow up and buy some, already.

It might be too much to expect American life insurance ads to adopt Thai melodrama, but if they stopped trying to sell folks on the financial planning aspect of life insurance and instead spoke more directly to the need for life insurance in the first place, it just might be more successful. It would also be more direct, and dare I say, more honest. Life insurance spends a lot of effort these days trying to pretend to be something that it is not.

Yes, life insurance can be a great investment. But it is meant to protect our families more than anything. Why have we let clients forget that? Everybody wants to do right by their family. If you remind them that doing right means getting insured, there might be a whole lot more active policies out there. We keep trying to sell by appealing to reason. Maybe we ought to be hitting them in the feels. ED

Bill Coffin Editor in Chief

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Author:Coffin, Bill
Publication:National Underwriter Life & Health
Date:May 1, 2014
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