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.”