SS+K Enlists ‘Serious Baby’ for Smile Train

By Erik Oster 

SS+K launched a new campaign targeting millenials for international children’s charity Smile Train, entitled “Serious Baby.”

Inspired by baby memes, the campaign tells the story of Walter, a nine-month old who goes on a smile strike. “There’s kids who have trouble smiling because of their unrepaired clefts,” he explains in an online spot (through a gruff, serious voiceover, “If they’re not smiling, I’m not smiling.” He encourages viewers to donate if they want to see him smile.


It’s a big change in approach for SS+K and Smile Train, whose last spot for the charity, “Dreaming of Midnight,” featured an interactive story allowing viewers to change the fate of a young girl by donating. The baby’s demeanor aside, it’s a far less serious approach than what viewers typically associate with Smile Train, as many remember when its ads featured shot after shot of children suffering from cleft palate to garner viewers’ sympathy and encourage donations. SS+K began changing things up by focusing instead on a single child, as in its previous spot and last April’s “Power of a Smile.” This is a far more drastic departure, however, as the spot attempts a more light-hearted approach without making light of an important cause. The video, along with various memes featuring Walter are hosted on Smile Train’s  Tumblr microsite for the campaign.

“We wanted to take a bit of a risk and try something different,” Shari Mason, senior director of integrated marketing at Smile Train, told Digiday. “We realized that if we are able to put a humorous spin on a serious issue like this, it will have a bigger impact rather than shouting facts and figures and attract a younger audience, including millennials. Millennials like to support causes where they can see the impact they’re making.”

“We’re trying to build their audience base and reach out to a younger demographic,” added Armando Flores, creative director at SS+K. “They have their core audience, but what we’re really moving toward is figuring out interesting ways to get more people to make micro donations instead of just big charity amounts.”