Specsavers’ quest to improve eye health


Key Points

  • Specsavers wanted to raise awareness of eye health and encourage people to get their eyes tested
  • They created a truly innovative TV plan to target eye test avoiders
  • As a result, 40,000 more eyes were tested

The Challenge

Specsavers have been around for over 30 years and with a track record of innovation in the optics industry, are now leading the drive to transform eye health in the UK.

Specsavers are no stranger to successful TV campaigns, with their #Shouldve campaign winning best ongoing use of TV at the Thinkbox TV Planning Awards in 2015.

In 2017, Specsavers’ mission was to end avoidable sight loss in the UK by changing people’s attitudes and behaviour around eye health. The stats show that 14 million people in the UK do not get regular eye tests, even though 250 people start to lose their sight every day. Specsavers set out to prove to eye test avoiders that an eye test is more important than what was distracting them. The challenge was how to get more people to get their eyes checked.

The Solution

Specsavers tasked their media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD to come up with a solution that would convince their target market of eye test avoiders that eye health was important. MGOMD found that their eye test avoiders spend about 4 hours a day watching TV and so this provided the key for communicating with them. They know that they’re interested in big programmes - cultural and sporting events that provide fuel for conversations and they had learnt from previous campaigns that high impact, talkable TV campaigns can change behaviour. Therefore, Specsavers decided to use the behaviour that had made them famous, which was reacting to topical events and becoming part of the conversation, but this time do it for an entire campaign.

MGOMD took the principles of the #Shouldve campaigns and applied them to broadcast TV to create interest, awareness, buzz and ultimately action. They created a new metric with which to plan TV, shifting the emphasis from reach to moments of maximum impact.

The Plan

MGOMD created a planning tool that analysed 12 months of the top British TV moments. This meant they could understand what kinds of programmes create the most impact based on volume/intensity of social buzz, newsworthiness and programme reach. This ‘Impact Index’ allowed them to pinpoint the exact moments on TV that had the most impact with their audience. The next step was to create a bespoke spot list of moments that they believed would create the biggest buzz in the campaign period.

Specsavers ran 33 spots across eight days in September 2017, which allowed them to reach 57% of the UK in high-interest and newsworthy moments.

MGOMD wanted to create contextual relevance in every TV spot and fill the entire schedule with bespoke executions. Each spot needed to reflect the content in which it was seen.  A tagline was created - “More important than…” and so each spot would reference what had just happened on TV. For example, the first spot went out in the Chelsea v Arsenal match with the line “More important than London derbies?” Another spot that went out in Gogglebox said “More important than what’s on the box?” By picking moments that would be talked about, it was more likely that the TV campaign would resonate with viewers.

MGOMD were able to increase the contextual relevance by knowing exactly what was going to happen. To this end, they worked with Channel 4 and Sky to get access to programme scripts ahead of time. This enabled them to create ads which referenced what had just happened on screen. For example, an ad went out in First Dates saying “more important than who picks up the tab” which related to something that had just happened in the episode. Another ad said “More important than singing sports stars” which went out in an episode of A League of Their Own.

To increase the contextual relevance even further, they made some almost-live TV ads that commented on topical events in the media that day. MGOMD set up a war room to track what the most popular topics were, with creatives at hand to come up with an ad in a few hours. Examples of these ads include “More important than the handmaid cleaning up” after The Handmaid’s Tale had won an Emmy and an advert referring to Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s first appearance together stating, ‘More important than Royal Dating Games?’


  • Specsavers is a brand built and maintained by advertising. If the advertising stands out, the brand tends to grow. This campaign generated 13% greater ad awareness than their #Shouldve activity in 2017 and 14% more awareness than their 2016 eye health campaign run at the same time of year, on the same level of spend (source: YouGov)
  • The campaign drove 6% more searches than their other activity in 2017 and 13% more searches than their 2016 eye health campaign at the same time of year.
  • The campaign drove 44% more buzz than their #Shouldve activity in 2017 and 50% more buzz than their 2016 eye health campaign at the same time of year (source: YouGov)
  • After the campaign, 90% of people agreed that eye tests are an important general health check (source: TNS)
  • In the period immediately post campaign, Specsavers tested almost 40,000 more eyes than the same period the year before
  • 18% of customers tested in the campaign period were new to Specsavers
  • The campaign won ‘Best Use of TV Innovation’ at the TV Planning Awards

Using innovative TV planning to align ourselves so closely with the very content we were referencing meant that it was the perfect vehicle for our topical ads. Working collaboratively with MG OMD we were able to capitalise on the most eye-catching broadcast opportunities and saw fantastic cooperation from the media owners who were all really keen to be involved in the project. 

Sarah Marquis Specsavers Category Owner, Health and Expertise


Sector: Retail

Brand: Specsavers

Campaign objectives: To change attitude towards eye health and encourage more people to have their eyes checked

Target Audience: Eye test avoiders

Budget: £730,000

Campaign Dates: 17th September – 24th September 2017

TV Usage:  20 second slots

Creative Agency: Specsavers Creative

Media Agency:  Manning Gottlieb OMD

Tech production: Never.no

You might also like

Severn Trent: wonderful on tap

See how Severn Trent used ITV talent to inform customers about the importance of preserving water and to influence behaviour change


How taking an alternative path took Aldi from shame to pride

Learn how Aldi won an IPA Bronze Effectiveness Award by using humourous campaigns to turn their negatives into positives.


OLIO: what a wonderful waste

How a simple but haunting TV ad generated behaviour change and encouraged use to share rather than waste food