Campaign of the Week

7 November 2023

Rick Astley re-records hit song with misheard lyrics for Specsavers 

Rick Astley records Never Gonna Give You Up with popular malaprops to promote Specsavers' audiology services

To raise awareness for signs of hidden hearing loss, Specsavers has partnered with 1980s popstar Rick Astley to launch a re-recording of his hit ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ – with some amusingly misinterpreted lyrics. The misheard version campaign rewrote the song to include some of the public’s silliest malaprops, such as ‘Never gonna run around and desert you’ with ‘Never gonna run around with dessert spoons’.

Before Specsavers put their name to the track, the song was teased on radio and Astley’s social media channels. As part of the reveal and the campaign’s social drive, a two-and-a-half minute spot, developed by Golin, London, documented ‘behind the scenes’ footage of the song’s recording. The video, which launched across Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok and YouTube, also featured an interview between Astley and an audiologist in which the singer opened up to experiencing some hearing loss of his own.

Further content is set to be released throughout the campaign across social media, radio, broadcast and print, including a miniseries titled ‘Rick’s guide to never giving up on your hearing’, which will feature Astley, one of Specsavers audiologists and TV doctor Michael Mosley.

The campaign officially launched on 24 October and was supported by social from Tangerine, and media from Manning Gottlieb and Bauer Media.

The campaign followed a number of other partnerships the brand has made with celebrities this year to talk about hearing loss, including TV personality Jools Holland and Irish folk singer Mary Black.

Results / A cryptic teaser tweet on Astley’s own social channels gained just under 10 million views organically. The campaign also earned push media on This Morning, The Times, Sky, Mail Online and drove a Google Trends spike.

Contagious Insight 

More than meets the eye / By attaching its name to the re-recording of a classic pop hit that poked fun at the common misperceptions around its lyrics, Specsavers was able to generate conversation around hearing loss and strengthen its association as a provider of hearing care.

Specsavers is widely recognised as the go-to high street optician (the clue is in the name), but its hearing care services are less synonymous with the brand. Making itself known as an audiology care provider is more of a challenge – and one it must overcome. In How Brands Grow, Byron Sharp notes that one of the most important aspects of building a brand’s mental availability is making sure it readily associates with the category it operates in.

To drive this hearing-loss association the brand needs campaigns that get people talking and make its auditory services (pardon the pun) heard. This campaign does just that; Astley’s cheesy hit is familiar and everyone can relate to the experience of singing the wrong lines to a song once in a while. Not only that, but it aligns with Specsavers’ lightly humorous and firmly established ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ tone of voice.

As a result, the campaign is highly shareable, with the potential to generate conversation online and across more mainstream platforms such as radio and broadcast.

Gotta make you understand / By framing hearing loss to be something as relatable as mishearing the lyrics to a song, Specsavers is able to normalise the topic and provide a reference point that makes going for a check-up something that more people will consider. Alex Wood, executive creative director at Golin said in a statement: ‘Hearing loss can be a scary, isolating topic, but everyone recognises the experience of mishearing a song. It’s a much softer way into the conversation. By bringing some levity and Rick’s personal experience to life, the aim was to create something people actively want to talk about and share – rather than avoid for feeling too heavy.’

Specsavers services aren’t just about selling hearing aids to those with significant hearing loss, but also providing services like earwax removal that could be providing any unimpaired individual with difficulty. While the brand offers free check-ups, lowering the bar for what merits booking an appointment gets more people through the door and helps Specsavers reach potential customers who may need to use their paid services either in the immediate term, or further down the line.

Unlike a visit to the opticians, hearing tests are much less frequently booked. Research from the RNID found that only 6% of people who have not been diagnosed with hearing loss had a check-up in the last 12 months, compared to 46% who have had an eye test. James Thomas, director of trading, audiology at Specsavers, said in a statement: ‘People often wait a shocking 10 years to address their hearing loss. This needs to change and we hope this campaign can start to make people feel differently about their own hearing.’ In truth, many people wait even longer than 10 years to get their hearing loss checked. A survey conducted alongside the campaign revealed that whilst one in three people notice changes to their hearing over the course of a decade, 57% do nothing to address it.

Partner in rhyme / Collaborating with Rick Astley not only makes sense because he is able to talk authentically about his own hearing loss, but because he is a good fit to connect the brand with the demographic of UK people who are most likely to be experiencing it for themselves. According to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), around 40% of people aged 50 years or older experience hearing loss, with age related hearing loss being the greatest cause. Considering that Astley’s teaser for the campaign on social media was viewed 10 million times, his involvement helps the campaign a good chunk of this age bracket, and starts to make Specsavers the place to go for a hearing check-up.

While an older demographic may be the target of this campaign, Astley gained prominence as somewhat of a cult icon among younger audiences which could help the song’s shareability across social media. The trend of ‘rickrolling’ began in 2007 when a 4chan user pulled a bait and switch on readers who followed a link expecting to see a trailer for the Grand Theft Auto IV game, only to be shown Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up video’ instead. The prank was popular for several years, and resurfaced in 2020 when students started to ‘rickroll’ their classmates and teachers during Zoom classes.

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