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Creative strategy “Collect Smiles” for VSNS

Creative strategy “Collect Smiles” for VSNS

Each of us can become someone's Santa

The Challenge

Today, general trends in the UK show a significant decline in the number of people who are willing to give their time and effort to volunteer, so community organisations are experiencing a great shortage of volunteers.


Digital marketing

There was a surge in volunteer activity during the Covid period, when people understood the complexity of the situation and were ready to help and support each other. However, as the situation stabilised, interest in volunteering began to decline. In addition, global crises and rising living costs encourage people to focus more on their own problems than on volunteering.

Creative strategy “Collect Smiles” for VSNS

That is why Voluntary Support North Surrey in conjunction with Surrey Heath Borough Council, as a local public authority, decided to embark on the process of engaging citizens in volunteering.

Voluntary Support North Surrey (VSNS) is an independent charity that supports approximately 1500 voluntary and community organisations in the three communities of Runnymede, Spelthorne and Surrey Heath, and their 300,000 residents. The organisation was keen to help their member organisations find suitable volunteers.

With VSNS's close ties to many community organisations, it was decided to work in partnership on the project, together we can achieve the greatest success. Our task was to develop a creative idea and an advertising campaign that would attract people's interest in volunteering and remind them how important it is to help those in need.


The main motivations for volunteering are a sincere desire to help people and to be personally involved in a cause that is important or inspiring to the volunteer.

Barriers include other work responsibilities and a preference to spend free time on hobbies or leisure rather than additional work. After all, volunteering is also a job that requires time, energy, and emotional resources, even if it is only a few hours a week.

You must admit that when it comes to work, each of us would like to be rewarded for it.

But as volunteers don't earn money, what do they get in return? Volunteer rewards include the sincere emotions they receive when helping others. These include emotions of gratitude, respect, and admiration. And, of course, smiles.

This is how our creative brief was born with the working name ‘Collect Smiles’. We formed the main message that we wanted to convey to the target audience through our campaign:

You don`t need to be professional to be rewarded with emotions.

Who deserves sincere gratitude? A rescue worker! But you don't have to be one to get this emotion!

Who is gifted with the most charming smiles? The photographer! But you will get them too when you volunteer!

Who receives sincere admiration? Santa! You can be a Santa too!


Taking into account the results of our research showing that volunteers enjoy meeting and getting to know different people, we highlighted diversity by choosing eight characters.

The most important element is the sincerity of emotions. And what best conveys sincerity? Of course, the eyes.

In our campaign, we decided to remove all unnecessary elements and focus exclusively on the eyes.

The advertising campaign

This was the first time VSNS had undertaken an advertising campaign of this scale and type. We had no analytical data on which to base the campaign. So we set a key performance indicator: to increase the number of volunteer applications for VSNS by at least 10%.

First, we understood that involving as many partners as possible would help us achieve success more quickly and efficiently. Other volunteer and non-profit organizations also face challenges in attracting volunteers.

So we organized an offline event where we gathered all the local charities, presented our idea and campaign, and explained how each of them could use the campaign materials to attract new volunteers.

Typically, these organizations do not have a marketing department or marketer, making it difficult to create promotional materials. That's why we created a repository of all the materials, templates, campaign visuals, and instructions on how to use them. All each organization had to do was add their logo and distribute the materials. That way, they could immediately join the promotion and become part of this magical campaign.

After the launch, our advertising campaign became very well known among the NGOs in the county. It was so well received that other organizations that had not been involved before began contacting us en masse. They offered to help us by placing posters offline, adding mock-ups to magazines, and more.

We chose two channels for online promotion: banner ads on Google and Facebook.

The basic rule for any advertising campaign is to have a lot of creatives with different stories and formats, especially when the campaign is focused on reach.

Our campaign was launched with a focus on reach, finely tuned by user profile, interests, and geolocation. But it was also important for us to drive traffic to the site, which we managed to achieve thanks to a successful campaign idea, a compelling call to action, and a variety of banner formats and themes.

Results of the 3-Month Campaign for VSNS:

Creative strategy “Collect Smiles” for VSNS

The overall reach of the advertising campaign for VSNS exceeded 1 million Internet users. The target for volunteer applications was significantly surpassed—we received 3.5 times more applications during the campaign period compared to the same period the previous year! During the campaign, we also saw a significant increase in traffic: referral, direct, and organic, which we are confident will yield positive results in the future. The client was thrilled.

he results mentioned above are from our collaboration with VSNS alone, one of many organisations involved in the campaign in Surrey Heath. Therefore, the overall results of the advertising campaign across all community organisations are much larger.

Campaign Results

Creative strategy “Collect Smiles” for VSNS