Many years ago, when I was still learning the language of financial services marketing communication, there was a time when I still didn’t recognise the biggest cliché in retirement advertising. At the same time, by the way, it was also the biggest cliché in advertising for long-forgotten products called ten-year savings plans.
It was of course the message, complete with ridiculously cheesy photograph preferably featuring people who were obviously Americans, that these products would make it possible for you to enjoy a round-the-world cruise. I built up quite a collection of these photographs from ads and mailpacks (this was a pre-internet era), which sadly got lost in an office move some years later.
Even at this early stage of my financial services marketing career something about this round-the-world cruise obsession didn’t ring true. I personally hated the idea, and I felt sure a lot of other people would too. In those days my agency was making quite a lot of money, and putting questions on quantitative research omnibus studies was amazingly cheap, so to put my suspicions to the test I devised a question asking people to put in order of preference a bunch of extravagances they might like to experience with the proceeds of their pension or savings plan.
Long story short, the round-the-world cruise was first choice for only 8%, making it the second-least popular option. The runaway favourite was “penguin pool in back garden,” which from memory was chosen by around a third.
I wrote about these findings, gave a conference presentation on several occasions and went to see some of the major players in the space to try to give them some fresh and more appealing ideas. But none of it did any good. The round-the-world cruise pics continued unabated, and I’ve never seen a shot of a back-garden penguin pool from that day to this. My efforts were a total failure.
But now, I feel a new surge of hope. Coronavirus, I strongly suspect, may succeed where I failed. Media reports tell horrific tales of thousands of ageing cruisers trapped in their cabins on virus-soaked vessels parked on distant and desolate quaysides as the illness moves inexorably down the gangways towards them. It’s almost literally impossible to imagine anything you would less like to do with your 25% tax-free lump sum.
Which is why I predict that all of a sudden, stock shots which have acted as cash cows for the big photo libraries for decades are coming towards the end of their shelf life. As for me, I’m off to the leafier residential streets of north-west London with my iPhone. There must be a penguin pool in a back garden up there somewhere.