#MarketingExcellenceAwards MY 2020 highlight: How Alcon found success with AR filter for dry eyes

Alcon Malaysia specialises in eye-care products and is dedicated to enhance consumers’ quality of life by helping people see better. One of such of its product include Systane, an eye-drop brand that aims to provide relief for dry eyes. But how can a brand market its product when its target audiences are not even aware of their need for it? That was the challenge Alcon Malaysia had to overcome.

The brand then tapped on the expertise of agency Noir by Entropia to create its “Beat the Blink” campaign that featured the world’s first augmented reality (AR) filter eye test for Malaysians. The campaign won Alcon Malaysia a gold award in the category of “Excellence in Marketing Innovation” at A+M’s Marketing Excellence Awards 2020.

Challenge

As the largest eye care brand in Malaysia, eye-drop brand Systane has long tried to diagnose Malaysians of dry eyes through opticians’ recommendation and in pharmacies such as Watson and Guardian. However, the challenge is that all eye care brands have been relying on physical eye tests for a diagnosis, and would hence require consumers to make the trip down to visit the optician. This poses a problem as most consumers are not aware that having dry eyes is a condition, let alone take it seriously enough to treat it.

Armed with the insight, Alcon Malaysia wanted to increase the awareness of dry eyes within Malaysians, and cultivate a behavior to use eye drops as part of daily eye-care routine.

This aim also came as the brand observed that more Malaysians are adopting the digital lifestyle and are hence more susceptible to conditions such as tried eyes and dry eyes from long durations of looking at digital screens. Despite that, 70% of Malaysians are oblivious to the fact that long screen time are affecting their eyes, especially the Gen Z consumers.

Strategy

With the popularity of Facebook and Instagram Stories growing at an alarming rate, the team at Alcon found that consumers couldn’t get enough of AR filters on the platforms. From bunny ears to the iconic Flappy Bird game, filters were all everyone was engaging with. This got the team to explore using the tech and digital capabilities of these filters to enable a digital eye test for the new generation of consumers.

Working together with Noir by Entropia, the brand wanted to create the first AR filter eye test on its Facebook page named “eye-dration test”. The team approached it in three stages:

1. Enabling the eye test to a larger crowd online

The physical eye test determines if consumers have dry eyes based on their ability to not blink for 15 seconds. Since blinking is crucial to determining the diagnosis of dry eyes, the team needed the technology to be able to track blinking activity. With that being done digitally, a larger pool of audience can be reached as there is no need for them to make physical trips down to the optician. 

2. Standing out in a sea of filter ads

The filter ad category is highly cluttered with user-generated content for fun. There are filters for absolutely anything so Alcon needed a fresh idea to get people to notice and engage with its filter. The team then turned the idea of “blinking” into a social challenge, and got Malaysians to challenge one another to see who could stare the longest using the filter.  

3. Owning long screen-time moments

The culprit of dry eyes lies within Malaysians’ digital consumption behaviors. However, communication within the eye care category were heavily done offline, at on-trade channels. To increase the effectiveness of its strategy, Alcon needed to be 100% on digital, especially on channels that consumers are spending most of their time on. These include channels such as YouTube and iflix, which Alcon observed Malaysians spent an average of two to four hours daily.

Execution

Alcon’s “Beat the Blink” campaign was executed through four stages:

1. Education about dry eyes through social videos and carousel ads

Alcon’s survey showed that many Malaysians had dry eyes but did not know about it. Hence, to kickstart its campaign on the right note, Alcon created awareness by enlightening Malaysians on what dry eyes is - blurring, irritated, tired, watery, burning eyes - through a series of social video ads and carousel ads.

However, just educating consumers about the existence of the condition was not enough. The team knew that it needed to be more convincing and get its audience to truly “admit” that they have dry eyes.

2. Creating a Facebook filter 

As every Facebook and Instagram Stories filter have the capability of facial recognition embedded, not only was Alcon able to track head, facial and eye movement, but it also could also track if a user’s blinking movement. The brand therefore created its first AR filter ad to test dry eyes: the Systane eye-dration AR test. The filter mimics the science of a physical eye test where the idea is to get consumers to try not to blink within 15 seconds. If they do, they lose and Systane will provide a simple diagnosis. This not only reached a wider audience, but was also cost-efficient for the Alcon team as it cost less than one-third of the cost of a conventional offline test.

3. Influencer-led Staring Contest - #Systanebeattheblink

Knowing that Malaysians all love a good challenge and if they were told they can’t do something, they will most likely try to prove others wrong. This was the exact psyche Alcon wanted to leverage on. The filter ad did its job as a digital interactive eye test, but it’s not good enough to get friends and families to participate. So the team turned it into a digital staring contest.

Alcon engaged a group of influencers including Malaysian singer Elizabeth Tan, as well as online personalities Chazynash and pindaPanda to kickstart the challenge, and got Malaysians to challenge one another to #BeatTheBlink by tagging their friends and seeing if they could last longer. This social challenge was successful in many ways but most importantly, made Malaysians have fun while unconsciously participating in an “eye-test”.

4. Be present where most Malaysians spend most of their online time at

As the local online content provider, iflix has over 25 million subscribers on its platform with close to 3.2 million monthly active users in Malaysia. The team at Alcon then reached out to iflix users using interstitial slots whenever users hit the “pause” button to take a break. The team served digital banners to educate viewers about dry eyes and remind them to hydrate with Systane to relieve the symptoms.

Results

The campaign reached 89% of Alcon’s 6.5 million target audience in less than 30 days. With over 32 million impressions within its target group, and over 300k camera launches, the brand’s reach and engagement for Systane was one of the highest in history. The campaign increased Systane’s brand engagement by over seven-fold, as compared to its past campaigns benchmark.

Additionally, Alcon saw a 33% increase in its sales, as compared to before the campaign period. The entire campaign also saw a PR value of RM1.3 million achieved with minimal media investment.