Visionworks' Gripping Mini-Films Pack Eye-Opening Punchlines

Can you see what's going on?

If you haven't already seen these films, it's hard to talk about them without spoiling the fun. 

"Bomb Squad" flings you into a typical action scene. A guy needs to cut the right wire to disarm an explosive device. As always in these situations, the person better equipped to do this is trying to help from a distance, leading to confusion about wire colors and what to do if the hues aren't clear. 

The scene cuts before the pliers can, and viewers are informed: "This was a test. If you couldn't read the subtitles, schedule an exam. Visionworks."

It's fun when you fall for it the first time. The work is in German, the subtitles weirdly sized—though you quickly forget that as you start following along.

The campaign, "Subtitles" by Leo Burnett, builds on a study conducted with YouGov: 97 percent of people believe that healthy eyes are important, but just 50 percent get annual vision exams.

"Getting an eye exam every year should be a priority when it comes to your overall health and wellness," says Stan Lippelman, Visionworks SVP of marketing. "In addition to vision correction, an eye doctor can detect more than 270 serious health conditions." 

A second ad, "Bed," builds on Japanese horror film tropes:

YouTube commenters were sore about this one, observing that the subtitles get progressively smaller and are difficult to read even with glasses. These effects were less obvious in the German ad, which got a warmer reception. (Besides, disarming a bomb generates more relatable tension than pondering which part of a monster you're looking at. A tentacle? A tongue? Both? Just run!)

These works feel like slick takes on the U.S. Emergency Alert System. And we can't help remembering Berlitz's epic "German Coastguard" ad from 2006. Like the "Subtitles" campaign, that one employed linguistic opacity to power its punchline. (A befuddled German coastguard misinterprets a British vessel's mayday broadcast, his earnestness bringing bleak humor to the situation. The call to action is quick and dirty: "Improve Your English. Berlitz.")

Of course, in Visionworks' case it's the audience taking the exam, and that's a different proposition altogether. Leo Burnett chose its font sizes based on consumer data to highlight discrepancies between a viewer with 20/20 vision and one whose vision is faltering. A QR code at the end enables users to book an appointment.

The campaign just went live on TV, CTV and social media, and across 800 theater screens in 17 markets, in time for summer blockbuster movie season.

"The best advertising isn't just persuasive, it also rewards the audience for their attention," says Britt Nolan, president and CCO of Leo Burnett. "This work makes me smile, and it reminded me that I need to get an eye exam."

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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