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By The Drum, Editorial

June 13, 2024 | 5 min read

Taking Influencer Marketing Gold at The Drum Awards for Marketing EMEA 2024 is The Misheard Version - The world’s first mass hearing test from Golin and Specsavers. Here is the award-winning case study.


People avoid hearing tests due to stigma around hearing loss. Waiting up to 10 years to get their hearing checked results in a reduced quality of life and feelings of isolation. But this is much more significant than a hearing problem. Hearing loss is linked to heart conditions, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. Regular hearing screenings can show warning signs of these medical conditions and help you get the required care sooner.

In 2024, Specsavers needed to change the trajectory of hearing test engagement to save not just hearing, but also protect long-term futures. To do this, they needed to rethink the public health awareness campaign model to increase hearing test bookings by 5% among our core target audience of 40 – 60 year olds and their ‘peer influencers’ aged 25 – 40 year olds, with whom the behaviour of having regular hearing tests is key to establish for present and future health.

Although Specsavers provides audiology services on the high street, it’s not known as a hearing expert. Its name and heritage is rooted in eyesight. So, as well as cutting-through the stigma around hearing loss to open up a new conversation and encourage people to book a hearing test – we also had to simultaneously reposition Specsavers as a relevant hearing expert in culture.

Insight & strategy

Hearing loss sounds really scary, so people ignore the topic. Our research revealed that traditional hearing loss awareness campaigns make this situation worse by overusing ‘fear of loss’ to drive engagement - causing people to disengage from the issue; due to its association with aging and social isolation.

However, when we looked at culture, the conversation around hearing loss was warmer and more engaging. ‘Mishearing’ things is how the real world most commonly talks about hearing loss – often with a great deal of humour which connects people through shared experience. We’ve all misheard something before; often with hilarious results. This led to our creative insight: ‘Hearing loss is isolating, but mishearing is connecting’.

Drilling down, the greatest sources of ‘mishearing’ entertainment were found to be song lyrics, with these creating significant levels of engagement among our target audience – established across famous comedy routines, social memes and cultural commentary reaching across our intended demographic.

As our target audiences of 40 – 60 year olds and their ‘peer influencers’ aged 25 – 40 year olds, weren’t talking about hearing loss – and certainly weren’t coming to get their hearing tested - our strategy was to take one to them; in a way that provoked conversation. Creating a disruptive cultural ‘mishearing moment’ which acted as the world’s first ‘mass hearing test’ to get people to question their hearing and start a warmer, more open conversation that normalized getting One’s hearing checked professionally. Full of humor rather than fear. This mass hearing test moment needed to be underpinned with a robust health story, credible healthcare messaging supported with data and expert commentary that truly positioned Specsavers as a thought leader and expert in audiology.

The creative idea

The Misheard Version | The World’s First Mass Hearing Test

No one wants to listen to a normal hearing test. So we turned one of the world’s most famously misheard songs into a mass hearing test the nation couldn’t ignore.

In the Autumn of 2023, Specsavers partnered with Rick Astley to re-record the iconic “Never Gonna Give You Up’ with lyrics the public have been mishearing for years including the immortal ‘Then I’m going to run around with dessert spoons’ , ‘You wouldn’t catch nits from any other guy’ and ‘your aunt’s been naked’ among many others - before releasing it without explanation to test the nations ears...

So how did we make it happen?

First, publicly misheard lyrics were gathered from internet discussion forums, then recorded by Rick in place of the originals. Then we ‘Rick-Rolled’ the world by releasing The Misheard Version without any explanation or branding across social media and radio, causing the world to question their hearing and start talking - led by Rick's Tik Tok post of him singing the misheard version in the studio.

As conversation peaked and organic views of Rick's TikTok tease post reached 20M in 8 hrs, Specsavers revealed their campaign – with Rick announcing his own hidden hearing loss and journey to getting his first hearing aids across social content (TikTok, X, Meta) and earned media. Challenging stigma and driving hearing test bookings at Specsavers across blanket media coverage. Media across all channels were engaged with a full content package - with a focus on getting the track played on radio and TV, supported by survey findings on the state of the nations hearing loss attitudes and offer of hearing experts. As well as working with broadcast production teams to align with media's channels on-screen doctors - like Dr Hillary on TV show Lorraine - to create deeper 'hearing feature' show discussion segments.

As the light-hearted humorous tone of the campaign drew people in, the

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