Cannes Lions

Ancestry Finding Kamau


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As DNA/Genomics category competition increased, Ancestry faced a challenge to maintain their leadership position and increase interest. While most competitors don’t offer family history services, they began marketing themselves as Ancestry products in an effort to confuse consumers and capture market share. As a result, Ancestry needed to spark urgency for consumers to engage with their products.

Storytelling is at the soul of what Ancestry stands for. They needed an established, authentic partner to reach their audience and deliver their message. Their core audience (A45+) has an affinity for news content and looks to Primetime shows for entertainment. Syndicated research tools proved that CNN resonates with their target.

Partnering with CNN allowed Ancestry to leverage an original series and voice, United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell. Objectives were to drive site traffic, generate awareness, build familiarity, and educate viewers via Kamau’s journey with AncestryDNA and Family History products.


Upon accepting the Emmy Award for United Shades of America (USoA), Kamau first thanked CNN for ordering a show with a black guy who had a dream and quickly followed to say “...diversity and inclusion make America a better place.”

In USoA, Kamau is eager to immerse himself in the cultures that make-up the fabric of this country, diving into the histories and traditions that shape us through race, creed and clan. He’s said to be more concerned about telling the story vs. the danger it may put him in.

Ancestry and Turner collaborated on a three-part digital companion series where Kamau turns the tables and explores his own heritage for the first time. Through the power of Ancestry, Kamau took a pilgrimage into the past to help gain a more complete understanding of his piece of America’s fabric and how it leads to his present and future.


The most effective way for Ancestry to promote their brand promise of “Unlock Your Past. Inspire Your Future.” is through compelling storytelling via influential voices and platforms that will reach new and returning customers.

Partnering with Kamau Bell and the CNN series USoA was seamless and delivered infotainment-style content the Ancestry target embraces. The series showcased an inspiring, emotional, and accessible look at discovering your heritage. The partnership reached Ancestry’s target and allowed the brand to explore a new multicultural audience to begin seeding awareness and growth.

We also leveraged high-impact media placements alongside thematically aligned editorial content within a flagship CNN sponsorship to promote the series.


In partnership with CNN, Ancestry produced a three-part multi-generational series featuring influential network talent, W. Kamau Bell. Finding Kamau came to life as a custom digital extension of CNN’s linear program United Shades of America.

Shooting in three locations throughout May 2018, Kamau’s journey was guided by an Ancestry genealogist who revealed his AncestryDNA results and family history records uncovering stories and family connections. Kamau’s parents played co-starring roles in the series as they participated alongside Kamau in the one-of-a-kind experience.

Rolling-out across June 2018, episodes featured editorial-style content reflective of CNN’s tone and contextually aligned with an Ancestry’s Father’s Day tentpole.

Content was distributed across Ancestry and CNN channels via a multi-touchpoint plan encompassing linear, digital, and social platforms. In addition to the custom series, the partnership was inclusive of a cross-platform USoA sponsorship, :90 second social cutdowns, branded editorial lead-up segments and articles, and cooperative press efforts.



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