Cannes Lions


360i, New York / A & E TELEVISION NETWORKS / 2017

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To honor this epic story and achieve our goal to make ROOTS a must-watch, must-discuss television event, we created a campaign that had the potential to help reconnect modern African American families with their lost ancestors. We partnered with the Freedman’s Bureau Project to launch Reading for ROOTS, a multi-platform campaign that called upon the public to help transcribe names and dates from thousands of aging, hard to decipher Civil-War era documents. Each name and date collected was then digitally archived in a searchable database thereby saving the histories of the enslaved people from disappearing forever.


To launch Reading for ROOTS, we created a series of promotional videos leveraging the cast past and present and static posts for social media to educate the public on our mission and drive to our microsite. Social posts and the site went live on 5/13, in advance of the 5/30 ROOTS premiere on HISTORY. Once users arrived at, they were invited to read scanned historic slave papers provided by the Smithsonian museum and enter in key names and dates into the tool we built. Each name and date was entered into a database that was cross-checked by the Smithsonian and once approved, was made available digitally so anyone can now search for their family history at the click of a button.


In less than three weeks, participants transcribed over 6,000 documents, quickly surpassing our goal of 1000 documents. The transcriptions contained more than 14,000 names, all with the potential to help over 22 million Americans of African descent reconnect with their ancestors and rebuild their family trees. The entire database was given to the Smithsonian Museum for the launch of the African American Museum of Culture in Washington D.C. The Family Search/Smithsonian team realized the potential to enlist the public via social to accomplish goals quickly and efficiently as a result of this campaign, and are looking at ways to use tools like the one we built for future projects.

And, with over 50 million viewers, the ROOTS premiere was the most watched cable TV mini-series since 2013.

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