Thursday, April 28, 2005

It preys upon the anxieties people have

High Street optician chain Specsavers has been running for many months a series of television commercials based around the tagline “Should’ve gone to Specsavers”. The campaign (which must represent a considerable advertising budget) features a series of realistic drama situations, very well scripted and acted, and related to modern life. The campaign has been extremely successful (leading to almost 9% increase in sales) and has won industry awards.

Example: a young woman appears on a TV personal makeover show denouncing her boyfriend for wearing the wrong kind of glasses. The makeover professionals get to work, the boyfriend is equipped with Specsavers glasses, and the couple are reconciled. The TV audience applauds wildly (the boyfriend gives a limp little wave, as if acknowledging the legitimate verdict of the populace).

Example: a middle management executive (be-suited, balding, completely lacking in charisma) pauses as he walks through a general office, and in a laborious effort at bonhomie tells his subordinates that if they want stylish spectacles at an affordable price they should go to Specsavers. The staff respond by telling him they already have. The manager, looking foolish and out-of-touch, retires to his glass inner sanctum and stares out resentfully through the slats of Venetian blinds.

Example: a couple are on their yacht, the wind blowing, the sea a bit choppy. The wife has special two-in-one spectacles, the husband has two different sorts of glasses and is to switching between the two. The husband momentarily puts down one of his pairs of glasses and a lurch of the boat tips them into the sea (the wife smiles to herself at his incompetence).

These mini-dramas are some of the best work currently to be seen on television. They are all the more accomplished in that the screen time is so short (writing advertisements has been compared to writing poetry – a large package of meaning has to be condensed into a very small space). The marketing team at Specsavers does not use an agency to produce this work, but relies on a large in-house team at their headquarters in Guernsey.

The advertising is effective because it preys upon the anxieties people have about their appearance. The implication is that the wrong choice of glasses could lead to rejection, humiliation and contempt. Specsavers are very wrong to use this angle – all the more in the wrong because the advertising has been produced so superbly well.

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