Droga5 Brings Together Descendants of America’s Founders for Its First Ancestry.com Ad

Fourth of July spot shows how the country has changed

John Trumbull’s iconic “Declaration of Independence” painting captures a defining moment in American history, as the signers of the document lay the groundwork for the philosophy behind the future nation.

For its Fourth of July campaign, Ancestry.com recreated the painting with a variety of Americans from different ethnic backgrounds, showing how far our nation has evolved from the days of white men in powdered wigs. As it turns out, all of these people have one rather significant detail in common.

Everyone in the spot, which is the first work for the brand from Droga5 New York, is a descendant of the one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Droga5 was officially named Ancestry.com’s lead creative agency earlier this month.

“Declaration Descendants,” which will run in 60- and 30-second versions, makes its broadcast debut today. The campaign, which will be supported by digital, social media, out-of-home and cinema components, as well as media collaborations and PR initiatives (via PR agency Weber Shandwick), will run through July 13.

Droga5 pitched the concept in response to its first brief and began working on the idea in early May.

“Fourth of July is a time of great national pride, and our new campaign is a portrait of how America has evolved. Diversity isn’t just something we value as Americans; it’s quite literally part of who we are,” Ancestry chief marketing officer Vineet Mehra said in a statement provided to Adweek.

“We are living in a time when many people feel disconnected from one another, and one of the most powerful things we can do is to show how connected we really are,” he added. “The ‘Declaration Descendants’ campaign highlights how our individual and collective history is an important part of our country’s complex DNA and that we are all universally connected, sometimes in unexpected ways.”

Ancestry’s genealogy research team spent hundreds of hours validating lineage lines and sifting through research.

Once the initial steps were completed, this allowed Droga5 to find a large number of descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence relatively quickly.

Droga5 associate creative directors Paul Meates and Thom Glover said the response from descendants was “overwhelmingly positive,” adding, “Finding out that you’re related to a founding father is something people take real pride in. Apart from a couple of schedule conflicts, people were passionate about being involved.”

One such descendant is Shannon Lanier of New York, who says the information”had been passed down through generations without the benefit of official historical documentation.”

“I remember in first grade announcing to my class that I was related to Thomas Jefferson, and nobody believed me,” Lanier added. “But in 1998, when my family was finally officially linked and recognized, my journey changed.”

“The energy in the room was amazing,” Lanier said of participating in the ad and meeting other descendants. “Through my family, I am part of history. Through the recreation of that historic moment, I feel like I’m making history—it shows how much our country has changed and how diverse and beautiful America’s family really is.”

Lanier added, “While I have known my lineage since I was young, there were others who had just received the news from Ancestry. I found that remarkable—to have your self-identity change in one moment.”

“We made the decision that we wanted to re-create a version of the painting that felt relevant today,” Meates and Glover explained. “That gave the sense that these people were re-stating the values of the Declaration of Independence, rather than simply dressing up as their forebears. That led to a lot of questions about what did and didn’t still feel relevant.”

For example, they point to the decision to mimic the original furniture used in the painting, which feels like something you’d still find in historic building today, but replace the antiquated powdered wigs and stockings with “a modern day equivalent that felt serious but natural.”

“One of the descendants [who is descended from Philip Livingston] said something … on set that really stuck,” the creatives added. “He said he knew he was going to see people who looked like him [he’s African-American] and people who looked more like the founding fathers themselves at the shoot, but had not been prepared to meet people of a wide range of other ethnicities there.”

The creatives added that they think the campaign shows Ancestry’s “capability to unearth information that will make us think differently about things. They can help us discover things from our past and use them to change how we see ourselves and the world around us.”

Client: Ancestry
Campaign: Declaration Descendants
Title: Declaration Descendants
Launch Date: 6/29/17

Agency: Droga5 NY
Creative Chairman: David Droga
Chief Creative Officer: Ted Royer
Executive Creative Director: Tim Gordon
Associate Creative Director: Thom Glover
Associate Creative Director: Paul Meates
Associate Creative Director: Ben Grube
Associate Creative Director: Brian Eden
Copywriter: Ted Meyer
Art Director: Tommaso Fontanella
Senior Designer: Jaymes Barone
Chief Creation Officer: Sally-Ann Dale
Co-Directors of Film Production: Jesse Brihn, Bryan Litman
Production Development Director: Lucia Grillo
Executive Producer, Film: Tricia Lentini Himot
Senior Producer, Film: Jennifer Chen
Music Supervisors: Ryan Barkan, Mike Ladman
Senior Integrated Production Business Manager : Denise Klapp
Director of Interactive Production: Niklas Lindstrom
Director of Print Services: Rob Lugo
Senior Producer, Print: Christie Dwyer
Senior Retoucher: Mike Vorrasi
Retouching Studio Coordinator: Michael Mockler
Global Chief Strategy Officer: Jonny Bauer
Co-Head of Strategy: Colm Murphy
Strategy Director: Tom Gibby
Head of Communications Strategy: Colleen Leddy
Group Communications Strategy Director: Dean Challis
Senior Communications Strategist: Kathryn Ruocco
Chief Intelligence Officer: Amy Avery
Data Strategy Director: Lily Ng
Junior Data Strategist: Amanda Kwong
Executive Group Director: : Jeff Prince
Account Director: : Amanda Chandler
Account Supervisor: Taylor Berry
Associate Account Manager: Tehjal Suri
Project Manager: Rayna Lucier

Client: Ancestry
EVP, Chief Marketing Officer: Vineet Mehra
VP, Marketing: Karen Peterson
VP, Chief of Staff: Heather Lopez
Executive Creative Director: Paige Grossman
Writer, Creative Director: Elizabeth Asdorian
Head of Brand Experience and Planning: Alison Worthington
Director, Brand Experience: Bill De Groot
Research Director: Jenn Utley

Production Company: Prettybird
Director: Paul Hunter
DOP: Matthew Lloyd
Executive Producer: Suzanne Hargrove
Producer: William Green

Editorial: Cartel
Editor: Edward Line
Assistant Editor: Grant Hall
Executive Producer: Lauren Bleiweiss
Producer: Ali Reed

Post Production: The Mill
Executive Producer: Heath Raymond
Producer: Abi Klimaszewska
Color Artist: Fergus McCall
Flame Artist: Nathan Kane

Music Company: Found Objects
Composer: Jay Wadley
Executive Producer: Jennie Armon
Creative Directors: Jay Wadley, Trevor Gureckis

Sound: Heard
Mixer: Mike Vitacco