Ancestry.ca turns family trees into historical dramas

The genealogy service launches a new campaign that aims to capture the excitement of uncovering family history.
JOURNEY 2

Antiquity is full of untold stories, and Ancestry.ca wants viewers to unearth their own with a new campaign that recreates pivotal moments from history.

Three spots, designed so viewers feel like they’re watching a historical drama, focus on an Irish family weighing a decision to cross the Atlantic because of the potato famine, a Great War volunteer who fails his enlistment physical, and an interracial couple pre-Emancipation Proclamation, looking to escape racial prejudice for a safe haven to wed in Canada. The three videos end with the cliffhanger, “without you, the story stops here,” urging viewers to “uncover the lost chapters of your family history.”

“We’ve run a range of different campaigns, including those focused on customer testimonials,” says Bill De Groot, country manager at Ancestry. For this campaign, however, he says it felt that dramatic, weighty decisions made by ancestors would be a compelling way to garner attention for the brand. Our ancestors, “weren’t just names in history” he says. “They had trials and triumphs just like us.”

He says the brand hopes this campaign will inspire Canadians to learn more about themselves and their unique histories though Ancestry. De Groot says the company is targeting “people curious about themselves,” and says it frequently hears stories from its clients who come to the site to build their family tree and then lose track of time as they pore over records and photographs piecing together family histories. Once a user starts going, he says “the fun really begins” as these dramatic ancestral tales come to life.

Home DNA testing kits have boomed in recent years. While AncestryDNA remains the largest – claiming to have tested more than 10 million people – it is facing competition from newer platforms like 23andme, or similar services launched by established brand names like National Geographic. And while some of the ads drive viewers to the DNA testing services, others promote the site’s ability to let users fill out their family tree through public records and documents – a point of differentiation for the company that comes as the public becomes more concerned about the privacy of their genetic info.

The campaign will launch with TV and digital video, and with more creative in development for social media and other channels. Anomaly developed the campaign strategy, concept, and design, having won the business in the fall as part of a multi-office assignment.