Operation Smile Branding Video Racks Up Awards

“Love Always Prevails,” a three-minute film from medical service nonprofit Operation Smile has won the Not-For-Profit and Government category in the Brand Film Awards U.S.

The documentary also received a Special Jury Remi award in the Family/Children shorts category at WorldFest, an independent film and video festival, and earned two golds in this year’s Telly Awards, which honor excellence in video. Late in May, it was announced as an official selection in the micro-shorts category of the 58th New York World Film Festival.

Virginia Beach, Va.-based Operation Smile has been creating films for the past half-decade as a way of getting its work in front of different audiences. “It’s been an evolution,” said Brand and Content Director Kat Wallace. “Only within the last few years did I start entering our work into award competitions or festivals.”

Earlier efforts were different than “Love Always Prevails.” They ran 15 minutes, a long time in the digital video space, Wallace said. Shorter films are more appropriate for meetings with corporate partners and other institutions, as well as playing better on video social media platforms, she added.

In a given year, Operation Smile will create a handful of stories. But the content is often cut in several ways for different mediums. What makes “Love Always Prevails” different is the storytelling technique taken by Operation Smile and its creative partner, CliffCo. “We worked directly with the patient and her family and had them be part of the scripting process,” Wallace said. “[The story] felt very authentic.”

The film documents the struggles Mariana, a Ghanian mother, faced in getting life-changing surgery for her 4-year-old daughter, Ramata, who was born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate.

“Ramata was very ill, and multiple times could not get the surgery because she was not healthy enough,” Wallace said. “What made this story stand out was the mother’s undeterred vigilance to make sure her daughter got the care she needed.”

Wallace sees the documentary as being part of Operation Smile. While it can be difficult to track the efficacy of the branding campaign, Wallace has a few ideas about evaluating the investment made — somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000. “I work closely with our direct marketing and digital marketing team with regard to the campaigns they run,” Wallace said. She will be looking at a variety of social media engagement metrics, as well as average gift donations, if it is used as part of an outreach campaign.

But within Operation Smile, the film has already paid dividends. “For us, it really is all a testament to working closer together,” Wallace said. “In the past there have been siloed efforts between marketing and outreach. This is common to the industry.”