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How pirates and ‘mummy bloggers’ helped OPSM take on Specsavers


How pirates and ‘mummy bloggers’ helped OPSM take on Specsavers


When Specsavers entered the Australian market six years ago, OPSM’s price premium and market share came under threat. The Penny the Pirate campaign helped OPSM drive more parents to bring their children into its stores for eye tests.

This article originally appeared in The Versus Issue, our February/March issue of Marketing magazine.

Campaign: Penny the Pirate

Client: OPSM

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Australia



OPSM has always been committed to delivering superior quality vision care to all Australians. It’s ingrained in its culture and central to its brand promise. It was an alignment of passion and commitment to quality vision care that led Luxottica to acquire OPSM in 2003, providing a high-margin retail channel for its eyewear products and augmenting its volume of wholesale operations.

But for OPSM to deliver value to Luxottica it had to remain a premium player.

MK0217 200Maintaining a price premium was not an issue until Specsavers entered the Australian market six years ago, growing rapidly to become the clear market share leader with its lower cost offering. Specsavers dominated the vision care conversation, driving home its low price message with more than double the media spend of OPSM (Specsavers’ $20 million versus OPSM’s $9 million).

As the premium player in the market, OPSM would have to pursue what Clayton Christensen calls “new-market innovations” in The Innovator’s Solution. These innovations deliver lower performance on ‘traditional’ attributes and improved new attributes – typically simplicity and convenience – as well as targeting new groups of consumers (non-consumption), not just those who are already in the market.

A rigorous analysis of various consumer groups identified children as an ideal target for three reasons:

  • regular eye tests are important for children, but parents were neglecting their eye health,
  • when it comes to their child’s health, parents are generally less willing to compromise on quality, and
  • there are 4.4 million children in Australia (under 15), representing a huge group of potential consumers.

Besides allergies and asthma, eye problems are the most common long-term health issue experienced by children with one-in-six children experiencing an eye problem at some point in their childhood. The Optometrists’ Association Australia recommends children begin having regular eye tests before they start school. In reality, children weren’t having regular eye tests at all – which meant many vision problems were going undetected.

As much as 80% of the learning a child does occurs through their eyes. For this reason, early detection and  rectification of vision problems in children is critical. A child with a vision problem is not only at a disadvantage now, but has the potential to be at a disadvantage for the rest of their life.

penny the pirate 2



  1. Commercial: long-term sustained volume growth in children’s eye tests and eyewear sales. In the first half of 2014, OPSM was experiencing an average -2% month-on-month decline in sales volume across children’s eye tests and eyewear. With sales decreasing, the target was a sustained +10% increase in sales volume for both children’s eye tests and eyewear year-on-year (by month).
  2. Marketing: acquisition of new customers. In order to claim back market share from Specsavers, OPSM needed to acquire new customers, as opposed to just driving increased business from existing customers. Therefore, the target was to increase the volume of new customers; in this case, children, by +20%.
  3. Communication: strengthen brand appeal and quality perceptions; driving parents to action. OPSM measured all of its communications across three basic areas: appeal, action and brand. The benchmark was the average performance of all preceding OPSM campaigns (dating back to 2011). The ambitious target of +20% on these benchmarks was set across all three areas.
  4. Social: improve the eye health of Australian children. OPSM has always had a simple mission to help everyday lives by improving people’s sight – it’s a belief strongly held by everyone in the company. This made the project more than a business initiative; it was a chance to help improve the vision and thus lives of children. Therefore, there was also an important social objective to help improve the vision and eye health of as many children as possible.



When it comes to their child’s health, nothing is unimportant to parents. However, almost a quarter of Australia’s parents had never taken their kids for an eye test – even though they were free. The Australian Government covers the cost of the eye test, with rebates provided to optometrists. So why weren’t parents getting their child’s eyes tested?

The real-world answer was it was simply a bit of a hassle in an extremely busy day. Add in the tantrum-potential of an optometrist visit and you find that a child’s eye test is a pretty easy task to keep postponing for even the most well-meaning parent. Especially when it may all be for nothing.

The traditional fear-driven approach of lecturing parents on the importance of good vision to their child’s development, imposing ourselves on their already busy lives, was not going to work.

Instead, our strategy was to create a more convenient way for parents to get their child’s eye health checked, which was also enjoyable for the child. By removing these barriers and making checking children’s eyes less of a hassle, more parents would bring their child in for a full eye test and purchase eyewear if required.

While the strategy targeted parents, OPSM customer data told us that it was overwhelmingly mums who brought the children in for an eye test, which had implications for execution of the brief.


PTP Single Book and iPad.indd


We created Penny the Pirate, a world first and a certified medical device approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia in storybook and app form that enables parents to screen their child’s vision. It was the first device specifically designed for screening children’s vision.

Reading is the perfect activity for parents to screen their child’s vision for three reasons:

  • vision plays a critical role in the activity,
  • parents have a high degree of control, allowing for the easy operation of screening tests, and
  • children already enjoy reading with their parents, ensuring it will be fun for the child.

We partnered with the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences at the University of Melbourne to help us to develop a series of screening tools that could be integrated into a storybook and operated by an untrained parent to check their child’s vision. The award-winning children’s author and illustrator Kevin Waldron was then  commissioned to develop a children’s storybook that could incorporate these screening tools.

The story follows the journey of a young girl as she tries to become captain of the Mighty Pickle. She has to plunder treasure, read the Captain’s log and see sails in the distance to prove she’s a worthy leader of this brutish bunch of pirates. Parents need only read the story to their child, helping them to undertake the simple screening exercises, before uploading the results online to determine if their child requires a full eye test.

The storybook was launched in front of a room packed full of mothers, fathers and children, as well as media from more than 70 different publications. We reached out to schools and libraries, and we utilised key influencers such as ‘mummy bloggers’ to drive word of mouth.

A through-the-line campaign was initiated to drive broader awareness of Penny the Pirate among parents across Australia.

The storybook was available at all OPSM stores at no cost and no purchase necessary, or it could be downloaded free on Apple or Android tablets. Search was also employed to ensure those looking for the storybook could find it.

We created a pass-it-on program to encourage parents to give the storybook to other friends and family so that they could also screen their child’s vision as well.

 penny the pirate 3d


Within the first week of launch, the app shot to number one in the Health and Fitness chart and organically ranked on the first page of children’s eye health without paid media. Ad tracking showed the campaign was the most relevant, appealing and impactful OPSM has ever created. Moreover, it was driving parents to action: 48% agreed that they would do something as a result of seeing the campaign and 42% were more likely to visit an OPSM store.

Most importantly, more parents were bringing their children into OPSM for eye tests. In the first eight weeks, eye tests were up 28% compared with the same period last year.

OPSM has done more than create a revolutionary medical device for screening children’s eyes; it has sought to improve the lives of a whole generation, both now and into the future.


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