The power of personalised videos in student recruitment

University College Birmingham valued individuals: so much so that they wanted to run a personalised campaign. SMILE worked with the college over two years to deliver a personalised video campaign that returned unbelievable results.
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University College Birmingham needed help converting offer holders. They’d tried a number of things in the past with varying success. They’d come across some previous work that SMILE had undertaken with the University of Birmingham that sparked their interest. 

Making educational institutions authentic timely and personalised with their communication strategies is at the core of what we do. Whilst working with the University of Birmingham, we’d developed a technique whereby we took a campaign video, and added personalised elements. We did this on around 25,000 videos which were then sent out via an email with a unique URL to prospective students.

We took our work with the University of Birmingham as a starting point and developed the idea further. The brief was to make the applicant feel valued, so we put our technical team to work. They delivered gold.

Working with universities and colleges has given us a solid understanding of youth audiences and the things that make them tick. We know the brands we’re up against when communicating with them, and understand that quite often you need to do something special to stand out. 

We set out to deliver a layer of interaction that would position the institute on a par with youth brands such as Netflix and Spotify. 

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Prospects received an email from UCB with a unique URL. Upon loading the site, the prospect’s personalised video was loaded. The campaign ran over two years and the video subject changed, but in year two, the video took influence from James Bond films. A Daniel Craig lookalike was sourced and set a mission of delivering an acceptance letter to the VC. The letter featured the prospect’s name and subject choice (the personalised elements). However, the magic happened after the letter had been stamped – James Bond leaves the VC’s office, takes a mobile phone out of his pocket and types out a text message which features the prospect’s name.

As he sends the message in the video, the prospect actually receives the message on their phone in real life. The text message mirrors that seen in the video, and includes a link, allowing the user to ‘complete their mission’ by finalising their application to UCB. 


The campaign saw incredible results. Phase two saw over 1700 emails sent to prospects with an open rate of over 70%. 

Thanks to the technology stack deployed by our team, we were able to track the campaign with incredible accuracy. We set the text message to fire in line with when it appeared in the video (at 50 seconds). From this, we understood that engagement with the video was good as almost 30% of those who clicked through, watched the video beyond this point. Of those who received the text message, almost 70% went on to apply, giving an overall conversion rate of 14.5%. In cash terms, that is £7.4M. Not bad for a £5k spend.

Elliott Barnicle
Elliott Barnicle

Lead Designer