The Creative Brief: How Cochlear Gave Consumers a Hearing Test in Disguise
By Jodie Byass
Listed hearing implant maker Cochlear was a well-known name in Australia due partly to the long history of the company and its founder Graeme Clark, who developed and implanted the world’s first implantable hearing device in 1978.
Still the only device that can restore a sense – as opposed to hearing aids, which magnify sound — Cochlear’s hearing implants were often associated with early childhood interventions aimed at allowing small children to hear for the first time.
The company had never conducted a major consumer advertising campaign.
The Marketing Brief
Cochlear’s marketing team wanted to raise awareness of hearing loss as a significant problem – effectively growing the category of people who were in the market for a hearing implant.
They were also looking to capture leads to enable them to market Cochlear products to people who would benefit from a Cochlear implant.
They also needed to tackle the misconceptions that a Cochlear implant required major surgery, and that it was only for people born with a hearing impairment.
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About 3.5 million Australians are hearing-impaired but it can be 6-8 years before those affected by gradual hearing loss take action to address it.
If the campaign could help shorten that timeframe and prompt more people to address their hearing problems sooner, it would grow the category for hearing products, including Cochlear implants.
The Creative Brief
Hearing loss can be a slow and subtle disability that creeps up on people. When hearing is affected, people begin to exclude themselves from experiences – such as going to restaurants – because they can’t hear. As a consequence they become disconnected from their loved ones and the things that matter most.
There are six stages of hearing loss:
But 85% of hearing-impaired people are doing nothing about it.
CHE Proximity determined that a creative solution needed to move hearing-impaired people out of denial and into acceptance of the problem, and from there present Cochlear as a possible solution.
A hearing test in disguise in the form of a short film that would run both online and in cinemas before the main feature. It would be a universal love story with a twist: the film would be crafted so that if you could hear well you would understand the full story.
But through a range of tactics – such as taking away the ability to lip-read, adding ambient noise and including contradictory body language – hearing-impaired viewers would get a different ending, effectively creating awareness of their hearing difficulties and getting them into the hearing journey.
Together CHE Proximity and The Glue Society made a short film titled Does Love Last Forever? It featured a couple falling in love, and showed scenes from their life years later.
At the end a question was posed: Did love last or was love lost? Hearing-impaired viewers would arrive at a different conclusion from viewers with good hearing.
“People with hearing difficulties use all sorts of strategies to compensate, such as lip-reading, and getting other people to answer the phone,” CHE Proximity group creative director Brian Jefferson said.
“In the film, we slowly took away the ability to lip-read by the way it was shot, and we added ambient sound. We told the story in sounds that would gradually be filtered out if you had hearing loss.
“For anyone who had hearing loss, they fell out of love and it was a sad story.”
At the end of the film, and in online and social advertising, viewers were prompted to go to a website www.doeslovelastforever.com where they could take a further test. Through a series of multiple-choice questions based on scenes from the film – such as ‘What sound can you hear inside the car?’ – people were given a score that would help indicate their level of hearing loss, from mild to severe.
They could then choose to fill out a form to get help, ranging from receiving a booklet about hearing loss, to booking a hearing test, to speaking with a Cochlear consultant.
About 100,000 watched the film Does Love Last Forever? in 12 weeks, with about 7000 going on to take the test on the website, spending an average of 14 minutes on the site.
Of those, hundreds of people with significant hearing issues were identified, sparking outreach from Cochlear.
The campaign also received significant coverage in mainstream and digital media, extending its reach from Australia to Asia, Europe and the US.
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The Marketer’s View
“We know how many precious moments are missed for those people living with hearing loss,” Cochlear Australia and New Zealand general manager Shaun Hand said. “Over time, people can lose friendships, their career, hobbies, self-esteem and even their connections to loved ones.
“By creating something unique like the hearing test in disguise, we’re hoping to get Australians talking about hearing loss, sharing the film with people they love — especially those who may be in denial about their hearing loss — and ultimately, seeking help.”
The Agency’s View
“Cochlear was prepared to take a long-term view and grow the category, as well as generating leads,” Jefferson said. “That’s really rare. Not every brand can do that.”