Designed to market Platinum Women, Alexander Forbes’ signature insurance product for the fairer sex, the phobias campaign broadcast radio interviews featuring South African women baring their all on what truly makes their skin crawl – and then inviting listeners to name their own worst fears.

The most common phobia submitted was not of snakes or frogs or even Parktown Prawns, but rather the fear of wooden objects (known as xylophobia and reported by 20 ladies), particularly the sticks used in ice creams and lollipops or that doctors use for throat examinations. The next biggest fear was typophobia, a fear of holes or clusters of holes - 18 women called in to share this fear.

Originally scheduled to run until the end of September, “the campaign saw so many truly fascinating and interesting phobias pour in that we were obliged to extend for another month - to allow more ladies to get it all off their chests” says Graham Hill, Senior Manager Marketing and Communications, Alexander Forbes Insurance.

In the end almost a thousand ladies from all over the country wrote in with entrant number 842, Nadine Owens from Boksburg, winning the prize, a R5 000 shopping spree at a mall of her choice. Owens who described her phobia as “listening to loud music with dry hands”, caught the judges’ attention thanks to the simplicity and clarity of her description. She stated that “when the phobia strikes my entire body cringes and I can’t talk at all.”.

Whilst Owens’s phobia could be construed as a combination of a fear of music, melophobia, a fear of loud noises, ligyrophobia, and a fear of dry skin, xerophobia, “in itself it was entirely unique and original” explained Hill.

Owens plans to hold her shopping spree at Eastgate, Johannesburg where even if her phobia does strike she doesn’t imagine it will prevent her spending her R 5000 – unless the background music is too loud.