Here's Why Specsavers Latest OOH Stunt in Edinburgh is a Spectacular Sight

Jason Papp
March 29, 2024

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Specsavers’ latest OOH (Out-of-Home) stunt in Edinburgh is doing its rounds on social media, exactly as planned. A Specsavers van gets caught on a retractable road bollard at Edinburgh's Castle Street, but some can’t see clearly why it was a good idea. 

Some may question why Specsavers' drivers don’t wear good enough glasses. Yes, there’s always one. 

But, you see, if we take a look at this through a marketer's lens you’d agree this was done for social theatre, it's been built to go viral. See Oatly’s introduction to Paris - this was viewed far beyond the Rue’s of Paris shared all over socials, even capitalising on a few unhappy Parisians. 

But maybe just maybe an unsuspecting passerby, let’s call her Mavis, confused the irony. That is if it’s the first time Mavis has stepped out of home since 2002, or hasn’t found her TV remote since her neighbour Derek accidentally tidied it away thinking it was her glasses case years ago. 

Should've Gone to Specsavers.

And that’s the point, Mavis (not a real person in case it wasn’t clear) is probably the only person not to spot the most recognisable tagline in the UK. But it doesn’t matter if there was more than one Mavis who didn’t see the point. Why? Because it created enough intrigue for passersby to stop, take photos and caption what appeared to have happened. And being built for socials means any initial cloudiness gets cleared up by us marketers, journalists and locals loving the wit of a campaign 22 years in the making.

Then we all critique it on LinkedIn, the marketing press dissect the execution, the nationals tell the story so ‘normal people’ not in marketing see the crack, and of course locals share it on their feeds and loads of people see it without stepping foot into the Scottish capital.

According to The Mirror Aidan, from Galway, Ireland, captioned it on X: “Should have gone to... Oh, wait.” Aidan was visiting his student daughter in the city when he shared the snap.

Strategist Will Posckett, shared his view with his 26,000 followers on LinkedIn, “In a world of shorterism & constant job moves, this is a rarity. Despite the fact that playing for the long term is one of the most important elements of brand building.”

Joe Glover, Founder of Marketing Meetup pointed out what he saw to his 69,000 followers on LinkedIn: “Too many folks feel the need to 'shock' to be effective these days. This is just a lovely execution that can make bunches of folks laugh without being at people's expense.”

But why Edinburgh? Well it turns out that satnavs have been causing quite a bit of confusion in the Scottish capital. According to The National, one satnav sent a few unsuspecting drivers down a set of stairs.

Wait for it…Should've Gone to Specsavers.

So these mishaps were already in the consciousness of the local Edinburgh resident. But no one saw this one coming! Yes, a few of the health and safety conscious amongst us may question whether it was safe enough, if the driver got a parking ticket like we all would have done if we decided to impale our car on a retracting bollard. 

But that would be a critical view. 

Victoria Clarke, Marketing Services Director for Specsavers commented on the vision for this OOH stunt, " The team suggested the specific bollard approach in January 2024 [around the time local news were covering those Edinburgh satnav mishaps], which has been a work in progress since early February and live since the evening of 23rd March 2024."

Evaluating the precise impact of Specsavers' latest OOH advertising stunt in Edinburgh poses a challenge, though the spectacle certainly turned heads. Let’s say it cost a couple of thousand securing a written off van, a parking ticket (not) and this is a very nice ROI. As of yesterday morning, it has garnered 150 million plus media impressions.

Clarke said: "We’re in a fortunate position with our ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ tagline being part of the cultural vernacular, and given the public don’t miss a trick…we were hopeful they’d see the irony in this mishap and want to share what they’d witnessed."

Within their 2022-2023 financial report, Specsavers announced a remarkable growth, boasting a revenue of £3.55 billion—an increase of 5.6% from the previous year. Operating 2,615 businesses across optical, audiology, domiciliary, and ophthalmology sectors in numerous countries, and serving 42.9 million customers worldwide, the company's expansive influence and substantial customer interactions are testaments to its market leadership, innovative advertising, and successful expansion efforts.

Reflecting on the brand's history, it's been 22 years (yes, 22 years) since Specsavers' in-house creative agency (established since 1988) devised the now-iconic slogan, deeply embedding it within British culture. Would we have seen this tagline so deeply established into British culture if they’d have gone with an external agency, who knows? 

The truth is, this a well done tiny execution in a far reaching strategic map which also included bus stop ads all over the local area. 

Specsavers Marketing works closely with in-house creative team, Specsavers Creative. But it's not all in-house. They also partnered with external media, social media and PR agencies Manning Gottlieb, Tangerine and Golin for this integrated campaign. In response to this specific brief, Specsavers Creative came up with several out of home (OOH) ideas, partnering with Grand Visual to finesse the execution, securing a written off van, signage and automatic bollards.

So, if you’ve recently shedded out a load on a course in marketing effectiveness and left feeling unclear on what to do with the info, there’s only one thing to say - Should've Gone to Specsavers

Jason Papp
Founder & Editor-in-chief