Specsavers – best ongoing use of TV


This case study tells the story of how Manning Gottlieb OMD drove fame for Specsavers and their brand using an evolutionary media strategy.

Key Points

  • Specsavers were seeing a decline in the memorability of their TV advertising
  • They changed their planning strategy and added sponsorship to the mix 
  • As a result, they more than doubled their return from media investment

The Challenge

Specsavers is a brand that has been built on TV over the past 15 years. Historically, they have invested around half of their media budget into TV and this has contributed significantly to their continued growth into one of the world’s biggest optical chains.

Their TV advertising, along with the strapline “Should’ve gone to Specsavers” has become extremely famous and has had a considerable effect on their business performance. The strapline is iconic and has entered the public lexicon. It’s a prime example of a fame campaign. It works by getting the brand talked about, making it more distinctive and more likely to be thought about when you need an optician.

While two thirds of adults need glasses, most people only go for a check-up every two years or so. It’s also non-seasonal so the challenge is to try and make the brand as memorable as possible across every week of the year.

In 2012, Specsavers were seeing a worrying decline in the memorability of their TV advertising. MGOMD set about analysing Specsavers’ marketing mix and communication approach to try and understand the problem.

One key issue affecting this was that TV viewing had increased for Specsavers’ core audience of 45+ adults. Consequently, the average number of ads they were seeing a day had grown significantly, making it harder to cut through.

Over the next two or three years, the challenge for Specsavers and MGOMD was to regain the position of being the most famous advertising idea in the UK.

Phase one – the aggregation of marginal gains

MGOMD decided that the goal should be to drive fame of the “Should’ve…” idea rather than any specific execution. Previously, each creative had been planned in isolation, meaning TVR weights varied massively throughout the year. They undertook a project to understand the optimum TVR threshold across the year. This led to a reallocation of TV weights to a much flatter profile across the year which meant a much more even cut through.

In addition, they targeted lighter TV viewers – an audience who had less historical exposure to the “Should’ve…”idea. One way they did this was by increasing spend to VoD.

They found that by running their other activity alongside their TV campaign, they could deliver a 12% sentiment uplift. So, TV was the back-bone of the plan and their other activity was aligned to ensure better crossover.

The results were phenomenal. After implementing these shifts, they saw an immediate uplift in the fame and recognition of Specsavers with no change in spend.

Phase two – fuelling fame

In 2013, two new creatives gave them the opportunity to create more buzz and fame. To kick off the TV campaign, they targeted programmes that offered big, collective moments in culture and had the biggest social chatter in order to spread buzz.

In addition, each new creative was given clear space by ensuring no other Specsavers creative ran during the first two weeks of a breaking creative.

Compelling additional content was produced in order to create a deeper and sharable story around the TV ad.

They utilised ITV’s Ad-Sync to seed this content via the X-Factor app, delivering 92,000 impressions with a click through rate of 29% (well ahead of the industry average of 13%).

A total of 45.8 million adults were reached in the launch TV burst.

A great way of generating fame is being funny, so Specsavers chose to be included in Channel 4’s Comedy Gala break where Alan Carr hijacked the creative executions.

Specsavers wanted the “Should’ve…” idea to live outside of TV advertising so they looked for opportunities to bring the idea to life. For example, when Eden Hazard kicked a ballboy who was holding on to the ball in a Swansea v Chelsea match, Specsavers reacted with an ad implying that he has mistaken the ballboy for the ball and therefore “Should’ve gone to Specsavers.” The ad ran in national press and online including through a promoted Tweet.

Phase three – extending fame through sponsorship

2014 brought a new challenge. Their core competitors were investing more into TV with heavy bursts of activity and were trying to make themselves famous too. As Specsavers were running at an even weight across the year, they had to contend with the fact that, for one or two months each year, their competitors would be on at a higher weight. They needed a solution that would give them a bigger presence across the year and would help drive fame for the brand.

MG OMD recommended sponsorship. It’s a great way of building fame, it works on the implicit mind creating familiarity, it creates long-term memorability and brands benefit from viewers’ associations with the programme. They started looking for the right property - something that had high production values to convey quality and touched audiences emotionally to build brand warmth. In addition, it needed to have mass reach and appeal to the wide and varied audience of Specsavers and also longevity to allow time to build a strong association.

They selected a two year partnership with Channel 4 sponsoring all films on Channel 4, E4, Film 4 (pre 9pm) and More 4.  The different movie genres provided an ideal platform to showcase the different “Should’ve…” creative ideas. In the first 12 months of the partnership, the sponsorship reached 94% of their target audience and the package of films included several premieres. The sponsorship supported their ‘always on’ fame approach and provided a solid foundation of ratings for the brand all year round. The sponsorship idents were a big success too.

Specsavers credits … added real entertainment value to the viewers’ experience. The time and skill invested in creating credits of such quality has been paid back in spades when you see the research results from this campaign.

Rob Ramsey Partnership Leader at Channel 4

Research carried out just three months into the sponsorship showed that total spontaneous awareness amongst viewers of films on 4 grew by 83%


MGOMD’s approach to planning has helped increase fame for Specsavers and in turn this has had a positive effect on the business.

  • Brand searches on Google have increased by 25% since 2012 (searches for opticians and competitors have remained flat)
  • Eye tests have increased 8% between 2012 and 2013 and a further 6% in 2014
  • Return on media investment has grown by 127%
  • Specsavers had their best year ever in 2014
  • The campaign won Best Ongoing Use of TV at the TV Planning Awards 2015

At Specsavers, we have years of proof of the effectiveness of TV in delivering quantifiable business success for our partners. Our challenge has been to ensure that we can adapt with changing consumer patterns, stay relevant for our target audience & take advantage of technological advancements to help keep our brand essence top of mind for current and potential customers and over the past 3 years, our agency has helped us to develop our successful approach.

Juliet Bousfield Head of National Marketing, Specsavers


Sector: Retail

Brand: Specsavers

Campaign objectives: To make the brand and the advertising as famous as possible

Target Audience: Adults 45+

Budget: approx. £34m across two years

Campaign Dates: The airtime and sponsorship run right across the year

TV Usage: 30, 40 and 60 second spots + sponsorship idents

Creative Agency: Specsavers

Media Agency: Manning Gottlieb OMD

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