Will you ever walk a mile in an immigrant’s shoes?
Are you able to see things the way a person in need sees things?
Can you imagine for one minute the root causes that drive people to leave everything they know and everyone they love for a new country?
The above line of questioning isn’t rhetorical and it’s not someone else’s inquiry. Everyone in North America is a descendant of immigrants. Even the native Americans migrated from one nation to the next—it’s the human condition.
Now, Ancenstry.com in Canada is offering prospective customers excellent reminders to fill in their own family stories.
The campaign from the Toronto office of Anomaly is the first work from the agency since being named agency of record in the U.K. and Canada last November.
According to Adweek, Anomaly Toronto president Candace Borland said, “No one says ‘I’ve done Netflix.’ Ancestry is a platform that people use to uncover the ongoing, fascinating stories of their ancestors—it was time to show that truth in a new light.”
Discovery is a great motivator, and prompting people to discover their own stories up-levels self-awareness, generally. How did you get where you are today? Your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents (and all who came before them) made decisions and lived lives that helped to shape and determine your own. Now, you’re making the decisions and living the life that will one day matter to your progeny.
It’s worth noting that one of the spots features an interracial couple fleeing slavery in 19th century America for freedom in Canada. Given the current state of political affairs and the loud anti-immigration drumbeats, advertising of this nature is critical to building the brand and in so doing, reflecting back the values of the customers it has and the customers it wants.
Marketers are perpetually searching for meaning in the brand. But that’s not where meaning lives. Meaning lives in the hearts and minds of customers.
The ad featuring the interracial couple fleeing slavery in 19th century America for freedom in Canada caused a storm of controversy for “romanticizing slavery.” Ancestry.com has since removed the ad and offer this apology:
Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history. This ad was intended to represent one of those stories. We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused. We are in the process of pulling the ad from television and have removed it from YouTube.
Here’s some of the criticism that led the company to drop the spot:
What the hell is this @Ancestry?— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) April 18, 2019
Why do white people insist on romanticizing my Black female ancestors experiences with white men during slavery?
They were raped, abused, treated like animals, beaten, and murdered by white men. Stop with the revisions.pic.twitter.com/cDEWdkzJPm
Bishop Swan and other critics are right to voice their indignation. Because I am white, at first glance, I saw the ad as a statement on how long Americans have been fleeing war and persecution at home for peace and prosperity in Canada.
In hindsight, the ad could have featured a black couple fleeing to Canada and relayed the same message, but with more impact and less blowback.