Smile Train is an international children’s charity with a unique sustainable model that supports free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care for children globally.

Historically the majority of acquisitions for Smile Train UK had come from direct mail advertising. This was aimed at generating cash donations and was a key acquisition channel for Smile Train UK until the channel performance diminished. This along with the imminent GDPR, meant Smile Train UK still needed a regular UK income stream and had to develop a new strategy. Medialab worked with Smile Train UK in implementing this strategy and developing a DRTV test plan, with the objective to not only test a new channel, but also to be able to scale and grow that channel.


Since its introduction in July 2017, DRTV has proven a core acquisition channel for Smile Train UK, from initial test its now a proven a monthly program delivering regular givers below the target cost per acquisition.

Constant optimisation and testing has meant the program doubled the number of regular givers in year one and has delivered an impressive 182% growth in year two to date.


Insight and data drove our strategy. We used our data and insight tools to find out what would be the best performing media channel for Smile Train UK, as well as utilising our knowledge of the UK charity market.

DRTV (Direct Response Television advertising) was a natural fit, as it fitted perfectly with Smile Train UK’s proposition and core audience. We also had previous knowledge of other children’s charities using the channel successfully for acquisition-based advertising.

We worked with Smile Train UK and their creative agency to build out their regular giving program into an acquisition strategy. The approach was to continually test and learn as we were always looking to improve performance and optimise the campaign, as well as scale the channel to deliver continued growth for Smile Train UK.


Running on TV allowed Smile Train UK to recruit new donors cost effectively and acquire a new and engaged audience.

DRTV proved to be so successful that Smile Train UK have decided to continue using it as a key recruitment channel. The use of another media channel has given them confidence in the UK charity market and has helped to improve Smile Train’s overall brand awareness in the UK, with the charity potentially looking at rolling out DRTV in other countries too.

What they’re saying

“Medialab have been driven, results focused and a joy to work with from day one. Their previous knowledge from other charities really helped us to create successful acquisition based campaigns. Their data-driven, continuous test and learn approach has resulted in us acquiring numerous new donors in the UK and increasing our brand awareness.”

Ian VallanceDirector, Fundraising UK