Tuesday, May 24

Eros, Thanatos and Strategic Content

American Anxiety Is High--But Few People Are Adequately Insured Against the Things They Fear Most .

Crass, ill-considered press release headline of the week. Implication: Why aren't you sales guys selling behind the fear? The apples are ripe upon the tree.

Interesting question, that.

Given the continuing impact of 9/11, the Iraq situation, and talk of looming crises in everything from healthcare to Social Security, to the real-estate market, communications group JWT decided it was time to explore the nation's preparedness for life and death, and its attitudes toward insurance. In early May 2005, the agency conducted a survey of the general American population online, netting a total of 2,5681(1) respondents from all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C.

Within today's general climate of free-floating anxiety, the survey turned up some very specific concerns about death itself. Overall, 55% of respondents have become more concerned about dying unexpectedly, 52% have become more concerned about a friend dying, 76% have become more concerned about an elderly relative dying, and 81% have become more concerned about a close family member dying.

Despite these concerns, the survey shows many Americans don't even have insurance coverage for the most basic contingencies. Only 53% of the sample have homeowners insurance, for instance, and only 12% have renters insurance; fully a third of respondents (33%) are without any form of housing insurance, leaving them open to potentially enormous costs in the event of fire or another such event. The dwellings of the youngest cohort, those aged 18-29, are predictably the least insured-just 42% have home or renters insurance. But even the older cohorts aren't properly covered: 73% of 40-49s, 83% of 50-59s, and 81% of over-60s.

In other words, now that the government has raised the terror alert level to Permanently Elevated, you would think that insurance sales among the risk-conscious citizenry would soar. But no. The explanation:

"This is a delicate time in which two big trends are coming together," notes Marian Salzman, EVP of Strategic Content at JWT. "Americans have become highly sensitized to risk and death since 9/11, yet at the same time they've become used to getting their feel-good gratification quickly-get-it-now-pay-later credit, broadband, wireless connectivity, and everything-on-demand have made everything quicker and have narrowed the gap between wanting and getting. We expect to get our paybacks fast. The problem with insurance is that it just doesn't fit into this emotional environment. For many people, the essential pay-now-get-it-later nature of insurance is too abstract, too far off, and does very little to reduce their feelings of anxiety in the here and now. In fact, the prospect of having to pay for the insurance now may well add to the anxiety, which is a big disincentive."

Emphasis mine. It's amazing how tenaciously the psychoanalytic Marxism of the 1960s lives on in the advertising and marketing game. This study is just soooooo Norman O. Brown. The hard-headed economics is thrown in as an afterthought. You insure what you have; If you have nothing, you don't insure it until you get it. The rise of the McJob has reduced us to a hand-to-mouth, bread and circuses, existence.

In the words of the old Sixties folk song, "If life were a thing that money could buy / the rich would live, and the poor would die." That actually does turn out to be the case, as a general rule, though 9/11 was an exception: the worst casualties were among Wall St. types trading bonds a mile in the sky.

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