Brand Insight in association withLBB's Brand Insight Features

Brand Insight: Specsavers

In-House Agency
La Villiaze, Guernsey
Creative Director Graham Daldry on the spectacular in-house creative

In UK advertising circles, Specsavers is often spoken of in hushed, reverent tones. There can’t be many opticians, after all, that has its own clutch of Cannes Lions awards. But the far-sighted company has opted to keep its creative in-house, and the result is a slow-burning relationship that yields quick-witted campaigns. Laura Swinton caught up with Creative Director Graham Daldry, who’s been with the brand since 1999, to find out more.

LBB> ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ – it’s a line that keeps on giving! What was the original genesis of that line? Was it a flash of inspiration or quite a long process?

GD> I came up with the line in 2002. We had been looking for a new line for a couple of years and I was on the look out for something with an angle that would drive great creative ideas. We had used ‘Need glasses?’ which produced good scripts in a very similar way, but could have belonged to any brand. In the end ‘Should’ve’ was a combination of chance and inspiration like a lot of these things. But I knew right from the beginning that it could produce a lot of ideas – and it ‘owns’ the optical market.

LBB> We’ve been enjoying your super-reactive print ads that appear in the occasional morning newspaper the day after a massive faux pas. For example there’s the ad that was in response to the Olympics Korean flag mix up during the Olympic Women’s football match, and more recently the ad that followed Chelsea player Eden Hazard kicking a ball boy. What’s the process for turning around something like that so spontaneously? How do you decide what events to respond to and how do you turn it around so quickly?


GD> Working in-house is the answer to this one. We are always looking out for the big ‘Should’ve’ moments. And there is a very short distance between the Marketing Director’s desk and mine. 

LBB> What do you think this cheeky, off-the-cuff approach brings to the brand?

GD> I think it says we are engaged and relevant, and it delivers ads that are rewarding. When ads reward attention, it creates a positive expectation about the brand. 


LBB> …perhaps the public enjoyment of these ads might also say something about print. The fact that you’ve been able to put together something tangible so quickly rather than just sticking it online seems to be a factor in the delight that the public has expressed. I was just wondering if you had any thoughts on that? 

GD> I really believe that all the media you use should work together. If the work is good you’ll see it and share it. It doesn’t matter where you see it, or how you share it. So yes, print can have a huge role to play in that.

LBB> Sheepdog is probably one of my favourite commercials ever. What are your memories of working on that? And what was it like working with the director Chris Palmer?

GD> We shot the Sheepdog ad in the Faroe Islands in February. We had three hours of daylight each day, and it took five days to shoot. It was probably the coldest shoot I have ever been on. You can’t really see the snow in the ad, but there’s a waterfall that was running with water on the first day we were there. It had frozen solid by the time we left. The last shot of the shepherd with a slight squint really makes the ad. We didn’t actually know Chris had shot that until we got home. He is a genius.

LBB> And what was the inspiration behind the recent TV ad, the Vet?

GD> We just felt it had been too long since we had an animal starring in one of our ads…


LBB> You’ve been with Specsavers since 1999 – what is it about the brand and the experience of working in-house rather than at an agency that has kept you there?

GD> Specsavers is a unique company. There are no shareholders and the people who own the company are completely committed to the business. I think that shows in everything we do and it’s certainly why I enjoy working here.

LBB> And since you’ve been involved, how has the brand evolved over the last 15 years?

GD> It has grown, of course. So far as the advertising is concerned ‘Should’ve’ changed the brand in terms of its tone of voice and personality, and added a level of engagement and likeability that hadn’t been there before. But the attitudes that drove the company in 1999 are still the ones the drive it now. 

LBB> These days brands are much quicker to shop around for agencies and, aside from a few noticeable exceptions, these well-established partnerships between brand and agency seem to be rarer than ever. What are the benefits of having a closer relationship between creative and brand, for example in an in-house set-up like Specsavers?

GD> It took three years to develop ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ and four to actually get it onto TV. I think that says it all.

LBB> Specsavers has got to be the only opticians to have won its own Cannes Lions! What’s your award cabinet looking like? 

GD> It is a little crowded, but there’s room for some D&AD pencils. Chris Palmer got Sheepdog into the book for direction, but we are still working on getting our own nomination.

Work from Specsavers
Two Should'ves for One
I Don't Go
I don't Go - Specsavers
Specsavers - The Agency