While surprising to no one at all, another popular company is under fire for the publishing of a tone deaf commercial.
What We Know:
- An Ancestry.com ad begins with a couple – a young black woman and young white man – clad in mid 19th century clothing, running through what looks like an alley. The couple stops. The man holds up a ring. “Abigail,” the man says, “We can escape…Will you leave with me.” The young woman gets out only a fraction of one word, “I…,” before the point of this ad becomes clear. Ancestry.com, which claims to have the world’s largest consumer DNA database, says stories like ‘Abigail’s’ would be lost to history if people didn’t trace their roots using their service.
- In the days since it began to air in the United States, critics have described it as a sanitized and inaccurate depiction of American life designed to obscure the brutality of slavery. In doing so, historians and advertising industry insiders say, the ad campaign illuminates a set of very modern, ongoing American problems with race.
- As expected, late Thursday, Ancestry pulled the ad from its YouTube channel, canceled it’s TV airing schedule and late Friday offered more information about the thought processes behind the ad.
“Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history…both those that are positive and those that are more difficult but equally as important,” the privately-owned Utah company wrote in an emailed statement. “Many of our ad campaigns are based on factual historical events. This ad was intended to represent a love story between two people who were not able to marry in the United States in the late 1800s and wanted to migrate to Canada, which had no blatant laws banning interracial marriage.”
- The Ancestry ad, created by the Toronto arm of Anomaly — an advertising agency with offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Shanghai — first aired on Canadian television in early April. Anomaly did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
- The ad wasn’t controversial in Canada, a source familiar with Ancestry’s internal operations told NBC. The person spoke on condition on anonymity. In fact, the ad generating such significant spikes in website traffic that an Ancestry executive through the commercial should be deployed south. However, when the Ancestry executive was warned that the ad would likely offend, the executive dismissed the information.
This story is developing.