You Can Take Britain Out of Europe, but You Can’t Take Europe Out of the British, Says Ancestry.com

Droga5 rickrolls the U.K. with a tuneful, Brexit-themed ad

French, Italians, Germans, Poles and other Europeans belt out Rick Astley’s 1988 hit “Together Forever” in a new ad from Ancestry.com, reminding the British that while Brexit may take them out of the European Union, it can’t remove Europe from their DNA.

The minute-long spot, which doesn’t actually feature the Rickroller himself, touts Ancestry’s testing services with a surprising fact about the average Brit’s DNA. (This probably won’t stop the EU from royally screwing over their cellular cousins in Brexit negotiations.)

“The good thing about the Ancestry product is that it scientifically proves just how diverse the average British person is. Even the most hardened Brexiteer can’t escape the fact that they aren’t 100 percent British,” says Rick Dodds, executive creative director at Droga5 London, which created the commercial.

“The question then,” he adds, “was how to communicate this. Rather than school people, we wanted to put a positive, reassuring message out there. So we had the idea of Europe serenading Britain. The lyrics of Rick Astley’s ‘Together Forever’ had just the right balance of poignancy and charm.”

Casting was key. The agency worked closely with Biscuit Films director Noam Murro to ensure maximum authenticity.

“We cast in seven different countries in total,” Dodds says. “The Irish were from Ireland, the Italian grandma from Italy, the French guy from Paris, etc. We wanted real authentic characters to carry the message, and we wanted their real voices too. It wasn’t important to us that they could sing well, but more that they could sing honestly. We did takes where they threw themselves into the song a lot more, but it felt like a much straighter performance was better.”

The approach is tonally different but still somewhat recalls Droga5’s efforts for Ancestry in the U.S. last year, when the agency launched a July 4 spot featuring people of various ethnic backgrounds, all descendants of America’s founders.

Here, once again, the creative taps into current events for a soft-sell pitch that subverts expectations in a category saturated with earnest, tear-jerking testimonials.

“One thing that struck us was how different the shoot felt from one setup to the next,” says Dodds. “The energy was completely different each time. The Irish rugby lads were loud and not particularly good at hiding their displeasure at Brexit, whereas the Italian grandma was incredibly sweet and charming. Each setup felt like a different film.”

He adds, “One thing’s for sure, though. That song hasn’t been out of any of our heads since we shot it. It’s a real earworm, that one.”

Together forever and never to part
Together forever we two
And don’t you know
I would move heaven and earth
To be together forever with you.

You know, after a few more choruses of that pap, Britain probably won’t be able to exit fast enough.

CREDITS
Client Ancestry.com
Agency Droga5 London
Chief Creative Officer David Kolbusz
Executive Creative Directors Rick Dodds & Steve Howell
Senior Art Director Charlene Chandrasekaran
Senior Copywriter Dan Morris
Account Director Natasha Rich
Social Strategist Farah Dibb
Agency Producer Gemma Knight
Director/ Production Co Noam Murro / Biscuit Filmworks UK
Executive Producer Rupert Reynolds-MacLean
Producer Cathy Green
Production Designer John Beard
Editor Ed Cheeseman / Final Cut
Post Production Electric Theatre Company
Sound Design Mike Bamford / String and Tins
Music Negotiator Hywel Evans / Run! Get! Music!
Typographer Aithche Smyth
DoP Jo Willems


@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.