bigleyma is thinking…

UNUM: Putting A ‘Playful’ Spin On Loss Of Livelihood

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Only the most Sociopathic of companies would think it appropriate to take a light-hearted approach to the threat of destitution. But in the context of the widespread fear that people are experiencing in today’s financial climate – not to mention those who have actually been thrown into desperate times by the removal of health-related benefits – that’s just what Unum have done.
Most decent people would find the idea of profiting from conditions which have brought people misfortune or distress repugnant. Not Unum, for them it is an opportunity to be capitalised on and, as is the current trend, they are seeking to hawk their wares around the social networking scene.

Their facebook page is called ‘Back-Up Plan UK’ (echoing their new advertising motto ‘Unum: Because everyone needs a back-up plan’). They have adopted the typical modern ‘cool n’ cute’ style complete with colourful arrows, childish font and faux-immature graphics icons emulating the facebook ‘like’ button and so on. The oversized block letters of the title serve as ‘shelves’, whose contents colourfully depict various ‘lifestyle’ aspects of modern life through tokens such as lightbulbs for home energy, sand & ball for holidays, and, presumably, weights representing leisure activities. The overall appearance is one of playfulness. It is a style that we have become familiar with now as, particularly those who deal in financial products, seek to cast off their, at best stiff, at worst predatory, image through tv ads that effect a whimsical, often fairytale, approach to selling. It is an appeal not to the rational side of the self, which makes judgements on facts, but to the imagination and our escapist tendencies. Not a battle to win over people’s minds but to tap into their dreams. Sadly dreams are the last things that most people can afford to be indulging in under today’s insecure employment market conditions, and encouraging a light-hearted approach to losing your livelihood strikes a rather tasteless chord.

Which is why I find Unum’s ‘Penny Jar’ section on their page so offensive. It is a ‘cute’ calculator of how long you would survive without your salary, adjusted according to various inputs to do with the level of your ‘lifestyle’. Alongside the invitations to input monthly income (minus your wage which is crossed out) and outgoings, there is a scale to click along for ‘Everything else’, which is the nub of the calculation. Choices for ‘Groceries’ range from (offensively) ‘Rummaging bins’ through shopping in the ‘Reduced Section’ all the way up to having a ‘Personal Chef’. The other categories offer similar ridiculously reductionist items, riffing on a comicalisation of social stereotypes. The overall effect is that of a ‘spoof’, or parody. The payoff, equally as cheerful and ‘lolmaking’, is the ‘Penny Jar’s result. Your sides are presumably expected to split with laughter as you discover that at the top end, those with the personal chef, the Haute couture wearing, champagne and caviar swilling, island owners with a snow leopard for a pet would only survive four hours without income. Contrariwise, against all expectations, the naked, food bin ratching, holiday-less hermits fare little better under the Unum assessment of their prospects managing just four weeks and being advised to “Eek. Try cutting back on the luxury items”!!

With this attempt to tap into the spoofing techno zeitgeist Unum have done no more than achieve the double effect of being both ridiculous and offensive at the same time, exposing their lack of empathy for the real circumstances of ordinary people’s lives. Good work, Unum. Keep it up. With luck you’ll dig your own graves, saving the rest of us any further hard work.

I’m not providing a link to their facebook page as it would gall me to think that Unum would interpret this as working to their advantage. If you want to see it you’ll find it, yeah?¬† :/


Written by bigleyma

October 29, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Unum Provident

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