This Clever Ad, Disguised as a Love Story, Plays Tricks on You to See If You Need a Hearing Aid

Happy film will feel bleak if you can't hear the dialogue

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Some 3.5 million Australians live with some form of hearing loss. And it turns out many aren’t even aware they have a problem.

To trick Australians into checking their hearing, Cochlear, maker of implantable hearing solutions, created a test that doesn’t look (or sound) like one at all. Instead, it looks like a love story, complete with its own trailer:

Cleverly conceived by CHE Proximity, with help from the Glue Society and Noise International, “Does Love Last?” follows a courting couple through the ’80s and into their mature present. He loves mixtapes. She hates his music. Somehow they manage to carry on.

Curious about what’s to come? Watch the whole film.

What do you think? Did love last … or was it lost?

This content works hard—sometimes too hard—to fool your senses. Conversations are soft and mumbly; as you advance in the story, they’re often hidden by ambient noise. Mouths are covered to keep you from lip reading, and body language is orchestrated to convince you there is tension or distance where there may be none at all.

The result is that you perceive the ending to “Does Love Last?” differently based on how well you can hear. (Whether you think love actually lasts is your own existential challenge.)

“When you take away the ability to lip read and [add] background noise, it becomes very difficult for people with hearing loss to follow the conversation,” explains Cochlear senior audiologist Emma Ramsay.

The film appeared in Australian theaters for attendees of the movie Lion, whose demographic tends to be more middle-aged. An online version of the campaign will include an interactive test that better diagnoses levels of hearing loss, then sends people to the nearest audiologist.

“After witnessing reactions of cinemagoers that experienced the film, and seeing the different conclusions people draw from it, we’re confident more people with hearing loss will watch it, debate it, confront their condition and hopefully get the help they need,” says CHE Proximity executive creative director Ant White.

A making-of video, shown below, explains how and why the agency chose the approach it did. Not surprisingly, people who experience hearing loss rely more heavily on techniques like watching body language, or lip reading—which becomes so innate that many have trouble coming to terms with their own difficulty.

An Access Economics study from 2006 finds that one in four Australians will have some form of hearing loss by 2050. Nearly half of sufferers are of working age, and early sufferers typically wait about six years before seeking help. The study estimates that the financial cost of hearing loss is about AUS$11.75 billion, or 1.4 percent of Australian GDP per annum.

But the cost can also be personal, as “Does Love Last?” takes pains to demonstrate. What only looks like a deteriorating relationship has actually remained strong, filled with private jokes that touch back to a couple’s first few moments of flirtation—despite the use of tablets and earbuds that, to someone harder of hearing, may look like the mounting of a psychic wall.

“Over time, people can lose friendships, careers, hobbies, self-esteem and even their connections to loved ones,” laments Shaun Hand, Cochlear Australia and New Zealand’s general manager.

“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.”

Client: Cochlear Limited
Shaun Hand, General Manager, Cochlear Australia/ New Zealand
Linda Ballam-Davies, Senior Marketing Communications Manager, Cochlear Australia/New Zealand
Kerryn Burke, Senior Marketing Communications Manager, Cochlear Asia Pacific
Kate Harrison, Social Media Manager, Cochlear Asia Pacific
Emma Ramsay, Clinical Education Manager & Audiologist, Cochlear Asia Pacific

Agency: CHE Proximity
Chris Howatson, CEO
David Halter, Managing Partner
Mariana Rice, Group Account Director
Alice Jamieson, Senior Account Manager
Harry Manion, Account Executive
Ant White, Executive Creative Director
Brian Jefferson, Group Creative Director
Ben Stainlay, Creative Director
Jake Blood, Junior Art Director
Anne Lau, Junior Copywriter
Tori Taylor, Executive Producer
Elizabeth Geor, Head of Experience
Daniel Bradley, Head of Investment
Christina Webb, Trading Manager
Cameron Dinnie, Head of Programmatic & Data Partnerships
Lily Tidy, Strategic Planner
Jen Livingston – Senior TV Producer
Sam Mitchell / Damian Capicchiano- Additional Editing
Jamie Metcalfe, Digital Products Director
Blair Patterson, Digital Producer
Eddy Milfort, Senior Digital Designer
Rollo Hardy, Digital Designer
Glade Kettle, Digital Developer

PR Agency: PR Edge
Nichola Patterson, National Managing Director
Amber Petty, Senior Account Director
Clare McInerney, Account Manager
Tess Vallance, Account Coordinator

Pete Baker, Screenwriter/Director, The Glue Society
Revolver/Will O’Rourke, Production Company
Michael Ritchie, Managing Director/EP
Josh Mullens, EP/Head of Projects
Jasmin Helliar, Producer
Stefan Duscio, DOP
Philip Horn, Editor
Noise International, Sound Studio
Erin Maxwell, Production Manager
Kathleen Burrows, Sound Designer
Bruce Heald, Composer

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.