SPRINGFIELD, Illinois. The American Life Underwriters Association, a trade group that represents the interests of life insurance companies nationwide, finds itself in an unusual position today: instead of lobbying Congress to maintain their members’ exemption from federal regulation, three representatives of the group in white shirts and grey suits are seated at a dais more suited to “The Voice” or “American Idol,” pencils in hand.
“Let me tell you, there’s nothing like cash surrender value . . .”
“The life insurance industry faces a crisis,” says Executive Director Miles Anrud. “People buy life insurance when they have kids, and with couples putting off marriage and starting a family to spend money on stupid stuff like tattoos and . . .”
He is interrupted mid-sentence by Steve Segal, from the public relations firm of Highland/Nelson, which came up with innovative idea of a singer-songwriter contest to appeal to potential buyers of term and whole life insurance policies. “What Miles meant to say is that we offer a product that must compete with a myriad of other consumer choices, and we recognize that we must make it attractive to a younger demographic.”
And so three finalists will sing their tributes to life insurance and its wonders as they vie for a $100,000 prize that enticed thousand of young musicians to craft original pop tunes with death benefit themes.
“The clause that really thrills me, is the one about non-con-test-a-bility . . .”
First up is Ty DiMasio of Revere, Massachusetts, a folk-style singer who strikes a sensitive note as he launches into “I’m Really Doing This for You,” his ode to the ephemeral nature of the benefits of a policy to the person whose life is insured.
I love you so much, baby, he begins,
I mean that, I don’t mean maybe,
Whole life is really expensive,
I don’t think I need to tell you,
The coverage is no more extensive,
but it has cash surrender value.
“I got the policy, and now I’ve got a cough. Please girl please, don’t bump me off.”
“That was really nice,” says Clint Cain, owner of a one-man agency in Keokuk, Iowa. “I guess I’d like to hear you put a little more emotion into the part about the value that whole life brings to a growing family, but thanks.”
DiMasio accepts the criticism gracefully and exits, stage right, to be replaced by Melinda Urquhart, a willowy blonde from Butte, Montana who introduces herself by noting that she “literally grew up in the life insurance business, playing in my dad’s office with death notices and claim denials.” That little touch seems to warm the chilly hearts of the three judges, who smile as Urquhart launches into “I Cancelled Your Policy Today.”
Don’t know what I was thinkin’, she sings with her eyes closed,
Almost sent you a check today.
When I checked your file I found
There was a premium installment you “forgot” to pay.
“Just beautiful,” says Orel Newcomb of Chillicothe, Ohio, who sells both property and casualty and life insurance while maintaining an active notary public practice on the side. “Sentiment is fine and dandy, and many people are genuinely sad when a loved one dies, but life insurance is a business.”
“Think about your loved ones, sure, but think about your insurance agent and all he has to endure.”
Last up is a young man who, like purple-clad rock star Prince, dresses in just one color–black–and uses only one name, “Mort,” which he discovered in his high school French class means “death.” His approach is decidedly different from the other contestants, as he launches into a full-bore assault on term life policies, which provide a death benefit with no investment component:
Just think what death is gonna do to you,
You’ll be dead when it gets through with you.
If you bought term life you think you got off cheap,
but you can’t spend that money when you’re six-feet deep.
“Now that’s what I like to hear,” says Duane Thomas, Jr., who inherited his agency in Stillmore, Oklahoma from his father. “A lot of people try to go cheap with term policies, but they’re only thinking of themselves, not us.”
The three judges confer among themselves and, after a few minutes of intense consideration, announce that “Mort” is the winner of the $100,000 first prize.
“So–I have to die to get the money?”
“Cool,” he says with enthusiasm. “Where’s my check?”
The three judges give each other perplexed looks. “It’s not a cash prize,” Thomas says. “It’s a hundred thousand dollar whole life policy with the first year’s premium paid up. After that, you’re on your own.”