Sunday, 5 September 2010

Bupa: Britain's Friendliest Fear Merchants

I feel privileged to live in a time and a society where health care is free. Even better as a student I get all my prescriptions free too. Yay society. But if you so happen to feel above this crowning achievement of civilisation, you can always go one better and sign up with Bupa! I’ve never quite understood private health insurance; to sign up for it would be to me like investing in a time when I came down with a terrible disease like cancer. Then I would be somewhat looking forward to getting cancer because I’d spent all this money on making sure that when I did I’d be living in the lap of luxury.

Disturbingly this is what the Bupa ad campaign seems to promote ‘if you’re with us then having cancer will be like a holiday! You like holidays don’t you?’ with a bullshit layer of compassion that thinly disguises the true message of all adverts which is ‘BUY! BUY! BUY!’ Even more disturbing is the use of dehumanised pink blobs to represent people, with only facial hair and handbags to determine gender and identity. I was under the impression that Bupa as an organisation had quite a lot of money to throw around so it baffles me as to why they have produced this advert that with so many basic shapes, colours and animations looks as if it could have been knocked up in Adobe Flash in less time than the actual running time of the ad. Anyway, as the story goes, Emma the pink circle feels fine until one day she realises she has a tumour and turns into a sort of grey oval. But everything is brilliant because Emma is with Bupa and a badly animated scene later she wakes up in a clean and cosy room after a successful operation, a much better alternative than being found dead in an NHS ditch after being killed in an operation in a room that was so filthy, the dirt on the walls absorbed all of the already poor light given out by the candles that the over stretched public health sector budget struggled to provide.

Through all its bright colours, soft narration and music, Bupa is effectively selling fear. The fear of death. Ultimately death is what it is trying to prevent for its customers but why would anyone want to buy into it if they weren’t afraid of death? It manages to instil this fear subtly at first by praising Bupa facilities over NHS facilities (without actually mentioning the NHS of course, just by picking out general fears people have over public sector health care, hygiene, comfort, quality of care etc.) but then towards the end jumps straight in the fear mongering pool feet first by having the happy newly healthy pink blob family (now joined by a barking brown rectangle) walk past a huge billboard that reads “Cancer directly affects 1 in 3 people” So if you’re sat watching TV with two or more people, it’s guaranteed you’ll all be quietly shitting yourselves thinking “I hope it’s not me” and maybe one of you will pick up the phone and call Bupa out of fear. Mission accomplished. Bed side canap├ęs will be served at 7pm.

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