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Buying life insurance for children is a financial concept that may need some explaining.

It's not the intuitively obvious thing to do. Kids aren't breadwinners, unless they're Brooke Shields.

Recognizing this, yet understanding the profit potential of the kid insurance business, Savings Bank Life Insurance (SBLI) is using Fisher-Price's good name to catch the attention of parents.

Starting this week on all the television stations and in local banks affiliated with SBLI, a marketing campaign will offer coupons for discounted Fisher-Price video cassettes as a premium to parents who come into the banks and ask for the coupons. The cassettes are children's stories, such as "Things That Go Vroom."

Upon requesting the coupons that will allow mail-order purchases of the discounted video cassettes, parents also will receive brochures for children's life insurance. When they order the cassettes, their names will be collected by the marketers for possible direct mail or telephone follow-ups.

Why Fisher-Price?

"It creates a lot of awareness for children's products," said Jerry Czajkowski of Nemes & Czajkowski, the marketing firm working on the promotion. The goal is "just to make people more aware of children's insurance."

The promotion takes advantage of the popularity of video these days and the familiarity of Fisher-Price -- and Fisher-Price videos will appeal to the parents and grandparents who are the target customers of children's life insurance, said Larry Cohen, assistant vice president of advertising and promotions for the Goldome Agency, Goldome's insurance subsidiary.

Cohen also coordinates SBLI's advertising in the region. The other member banks that will have the coupons for Fisher-Price videos are Anchor Savings Bank, Empire of America Federal Savings Bank, Lockport Savings Bank and the Permanent Savings Bank.

Fisher-Price cleared the campaign, although some Fisher-Price executives are a little queasy about it.

The print materials use child-like crayon writing to announce the "double feature" of children's life insurance and Fisher-Price videos. It might look as though the East Aurora toymaker were recommending children's life insurance.

"In no way is Fisher-Price for or against life insurance for children," said Carol Blackley, director of communications.

That's part of the price of Fisher-Price's aggressive plunge into licensing its name. The headquarters in East Aurora has nothing directly to do with selling the videos. Rather, an indepen
dent video house is offering them for potential commercial use around the country.

"They aren't supposed to make it look like an endorsement," Ms. Blackley said. "Sometimes the presence (of the Fisher-Price name) can turn it into an endorsement, even though neither one of the parties intends it to be."

Indeed, some financial planners definitely do not endorse life insurance for children. They say it is a waste of money.

"Children, although they're adorable, are a financial liability," said Anthony J. Ogorek, a certified financial planner in Williamsville. "And you don't insure a liability."

The odds of collecting on a child's death are statistically remote, compared to the odds of collecting on an old breadwinner's death. "You might be better off purchasing a lottery ticket," Ogorek said.

Ogorek also dismissed the other argument for children's life insurance -- that it is a way of investing for the child. "If you want to accumulate assets, look at a decent growth mutual fund," Ogorek said.

Cohen defended children's life insurance. He said customers have been pleased enough to make it one of SBLI's hottest products.

It provides an effective, tax-deferred savings and investment vehicle for children, Cohen said. The policies can be cashed in for college or put toward a new home, Cohen said. Or children's policies can be rolled over into adult policies.

But then, you can learn all about the case for kids' insurance by walking into the bank and asking for a coupon to buy "It's A Dog's Life."

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