Peter York On Ads: Worried, rich or just wet? Hiscox has a question for you

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The Independent Online

The rich are always with us. And they do a good job spreading it around. They called it the trickle-down effect in the 1980s – the idea of selfless rich people as "wealth-creators" who'd create something miraculously new out of a few old loaves and fishes and then leak it over the rest of us like a lot of amiable champagne fountains.

The Mark Thomas type of person still says the rich are pissing on the rest of humanity, but they're like that, aren't they? There was someone tremendously American on Radio 4 last weekend explaining that the New New Rich, the epically super-rich, had done wonders for the yacht, the concierge and party-planning businesses. These entrepreneurial people had become medium-rich serving the rich.

I'm not sure whether this actually trickles down quite as far as the American sub-prime mortgage debtors' troubles. Oddly enough, these people – called sub-prime because sensitive financiers don't want to say what they really think for fear it'd be hurtful – are clearly at fault for wanting to own houses in the first place. They seem to be trickling up all over the place so their financial delinquency is threatening the bonuses and even the jobs of the nice rich people in financial institutions. They should be ashamed of themselves, especially as they're endangering the floats of all those hardworking concierge service entrepreneurs and green party organisers.

What the incredibly rich are saying to our Gordon right now is something like: "You may not think we have feelings, but actually we're tremendously sensitive and if you change the tax regime we'll have to go and live in Singapore or Zurich." Gordon finds this hard, of course, having been raised on camels and needles' eyes and other colourful metaphors, but he knows deep down that we have to look after our golden geese. What would London be without them?

It's not quite clear whether the dramatic new Hiscox insurance advertising is targeting the rich, the worried or merely the wet in Hull and Tewkesbury. It looks lovely in a swirly-whirly big-budget, big- theme way and it's chock-full of significance, rather like the beginning of the 'War of the Worlds' film. Some extraordinarily attractive young people are watching nature go barmy – lots of interesting clouds and lightning – over a resonant townscape. There's an electric pulse sound, always a good warning sign, and a very thoughtful voiceover. "Have you ever stopped and wondered," he asks, "what makes something beautiful or wonderful, powerful or memorable?" And you do, don't you? Particularly when it's got anything to do with insurance.

While he's asking these big questions, they're on to some more compelling yet enigmatic scenes involving a big old ship in a harbour and more attractive young people on a high diving board.

But there's some advice too. "To doubt is human, but sometimes it's good to be certain." I'm taking this to mean that while it's lovely to have big thoughts, you should send off your insurance premiums first.

The thing that had me confused, however, was that the voiceover had said "nearly half" the claims would not be covered by an ordinary insurance policy. Given the smart, rather ecologically aware look of the ad, I'd assumed they covered, say, houses over £4m or valuable collections of contemporary art. It doesn't exactly say. But it could just be it's serving people living on floodplains or even the more aspirant film-going sub-prime young.