Afterthoughts - News

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One of the UK’s first post-lockdown TV commercials airs this week when funeral planning company Safe Hands makes its TV debut.

The commercial features actress Suzanne Sinclair of Holby City and Casualty fame with voice over from Downton Abbey star Lesley Nicol who plays the cook Beryl Patmore.

Lesley Nicol

The 60 and 30 second slots were filmed under strict social distancing conditions which required the use of a genuine couple to play the husband and wife roles in the script. Suzanne’s real-life husband Eric, who is not an actor, volunteered to take on the role and was roped into the commercial.

“I have always known that Eric was a man of many talents, but he really did excel in his first commercial,” said Suzanne.

Safe Hands had originally planned to film in April but was prevented due to the lockdown over coronavirus. The lifting of strict social distancing restrictions in July enabled the filming to go ahead albeit with a reduced crew, venue traffic flows and mask wearing.

The commercial aims to encourage people to consider funeral planning earlier on in life in the same way as making financial arrangements for other life stages.

The TV campaign is part of a broader brief to grow the Safe Hands brand and is being handled in its entirety by the independent marketing network Pimento who picked up £1m business earlier this year.

Watch the commercial

The commercials were created by Pimento member Switch Creative as part of a larger brand remit for Safe Hands. Creative Director Panos Conti said: “Although a relatively straightforward shoot, the restrictions around social distancing made it a quite a challenging production. The big surprise for all of us was how Eric stepped up to the challenge of playing the screen husband.”

The production was through Buddy Films, directed by Paul Gowers.

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Safe Hands has been working with leading psychologist Dr David Lewis to better understand our attitudes towards death and, more specifically, why we are so reluctant to talk about it.

In this video clip he tells Mark Dolan from Talk Radio that an open and frank discussion about death with your friends and family can make you appreciate life more.

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The coronavirus pandemic has heightened the sense of our own mortality with more people than ever thinking the unthinkable.

According to research by the funeral planning company Safe Hands, 30% of us are thinking more about our health and mortality.

Indeed, Google searches for the word “funeral” spiked in March with more than 60,000 searches compared with 22,000 a year ago.

A quarter of respondents who have either bought or are planning to buy a funeral plan cite global issues such as the coronavirus outbreak and climate change and the as the key prompt for their purchase.

In addition, one in five said they were spurred on to plan their funeral by the loss of a family member or friend, whilst 16% cited personal health conditions.

The vast majority (75%) felt that having a funeral plan in place would place less burden on their family during a difficult time.

Although most people still find it difficult to talk about death, 80% of those questioned would welcome a more open discussion around the subject, although almost half admit to avoiding the subject to avoid upsetting others.

Psychologist Dr David Lewis believes that a reluctance to talk about death is a form of repression which undermines our well-being while encouraging ignorance and needless anxieties.

“Acknowledging one’s own mortality makes one better appreciate every moment of being alive. It focuses the mind more clearly what is truly important what you really want to do and the people you truly want to spend your time with,” he said.

When asked what more they would like to achieve before they die, over half (53%) said they would like to visit another country and 22% wanted to learn a new skill. It seems, however, that only a few wanted to make up with someone they fell out with. Just 9 per cent wanted to bury the hatchet with former friends and a mere 8 per cent said they wanted to meet a new partner.

Tom Gormanly, CEO of Safe Hands, commented: “In these difficult times, it is not surprising more people are contemplating their mortality. It has never been an easy subject to discuss, but it seems the taboo is lifting.”

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It’s Dying Matters Awareness week and this year the theme is ‘Dying To Be Heard’ – a focus on how people respond when someone wants to discuss death, or grief, their Will or their funeral plans. These have always been difficult conversations, but – by putting the spotlight on end-of-life planning as a natural part of everyday financial planning – we are determined to make them less emotionally painful, if not easier.

End-of-life planning is all part of ‘dying matters’, and the more we do talk about our own plans, the more our friends and family are better-prepared when the time comes.


That is a common reaction to any conversations about end-of-life planning, particularly. But is there anything more sensible than getting a friend’s opinion on a significant purchase? Could there be anything more helpful, than putting plans in place to help your family – when you can’t?

And, although it may feel uncomfortable to think about your own demise if you’re young and healthy, the reality is that many older people in particular welcome the opportunity to talk about their death, openly. With friends, and with family.

As we age, our focus changes. We do become more aware of our mortality; we start to think about practical things – like whether we’d prefer to be cremated or buried, and how does that happen? And what’s involved in organising that?


The onset of coronavirus has little to do with the need to stimulate these conversations. Although the focus, sadly, on tragic recent events has put the spotlight on the lack of planning and cohesion across our industry: there has been no government-directed guidance to advise our nation’s funeral directors on the right protocols for helping grieving families through a no-contact pandemic. Does such a thing exist? Perhaps it should, from here-on in.

For now, we, along with our peers, are doing everything we can to ensure people feel comfortable, when they’re talking about dying. Along with most of our peers, we have well-trained, empathetic, pragmatic, and friendly teams who can explain our products work over the phone or face-to-face.

Like any financial service provider, we want to be sure the benefits of a product you don’t need ‘until something goes wrong’, is very definitely being sold the right way, to the right people, for the right reasons. And the only way to do that, is to talk about what you want – what you need – and what you would prefer, when it comes to your own time of need.


As you might expect, we want to provide a responsive, empathetic service – answering people’s questions when they’re looking for answers. Recently, we’ve seen Google searches for the word “funeral” spike, going up as high as 74,000 searches in April compared with 22,000 a year ago.

Our research shows more people than ever are keen on discussing their end of life arrangements, with around 80% saying they would welcome a more open discussion on the subject. Talking about dying isn’t something we do every day. But most of us are dying to be heard, when it comes to discussing the things that matter most in our end-of-life planning.

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Agents selling Safe Hands funeral plans are set to benefit from a £1 million marketing campaign designed to encourage more people to take out a funeral plan.

The firm, which was recently acquired by a private investment company, is taking ads in national press, radio and TV as well as conducting a full scale online and email campaign.

It is the first time Safe Hands has advertised on this scale. This is part of a broader growth strategy that includes the recruitment of additional agents and more staff.

The sales drive follows a surge in enquiries as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This has already taken more than 32,000 lives in the UK. Google searches for the word “funeral” spiked in April, showing 74,000 searches compared with 22,000 a year ago.

Talking about death has always been a taboo subject. Research by Safe Hands shows that more people than ever are keen on discussing their end of life arrangements, with around 80% saying they would welcome a more open discussion on the subject.

Buying a pre-paid funeral plan allows people to fix the costs involved in key aspects of their funeral, at today’s prices. This mitigates the rising costs of funerals that have gone up by 62% in the last decade.[i]

As well as benefitting from the marketing, agents are being given training on how to sell funeral plans and will have access to a sales portal that  provides sales presenters, brochures and application forms.

As a result of the current social distancing measures, direct sales will be handled by Safe Hands’ new call centre, which will provide online consultations.

Safe Hands CEO Tom Gormanly said: “This is a golden opportunity for our agents to benefit from increased awareness of the brand and to develop their own remote selling strategies.”

The UK funerals market is worth an estimated £2 billion a year and has grown by an annual rate of 4.5% over the past five years, according to the Competitions and Markets Authority. However, only around 6% of UK adults have a pre-paid funeral plan.


Notes to editor

Safe Hands Funeral Plans is one of the UK’s leading pre-paid funeral plan providers. The firm distributes plans through its website and through a network of independent approved agents, across the UK. Holding over £50m in guaranteed Trust, Safe Hands is a member of the Funeral Planning Association.

[i] Sun Life’s Cost of Dying Report 2020