Cannes Lions

The 1619 Project


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In August 2019, The New York Times Magazine published The 1619 Project - a dedicated issue of the magazine along with a special section in the Sunday Times. Coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in what would become the United States, the 1619 Project was an instant phenomenon, the likes of which are rarely seen in print journalism today. Our campaign was meant to celebrate this massive journalistic achievement and bring the message of the 1619 Project to an even wider audience.


Our idea was to place Janelle Monáe, a powerful orator and champion of Black stories, in the exact place where the very first enslaved Africans came to this nation in 1619—Point Comfort, Virginia. In a single take, she stands on the shoreline, reciting the opening lines from the 1619 Project and giving those words the weight they deserve. By pairing a well known and loved celebrity with the shoreline that holds so much dark history, we aimed to show viewers how the America we know today was built, and by doing so, highlight how journalism can help us understand the world better.


New York Times journalism has the power to transform the way we see the world around us. The 1619 Project, published to recognize the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery, examines slavery’s legacy in our country and how it has shaped everything from music to traffic to capitalism—even our democracy itself. Our brief was clear: show readers and non-subscribers alike that The Times’s commitment to the truth—and how it can confront what we think we know—goes beyond breaking news and daily headlines. By publishing this work, The New York Times effectively challenged what we hold to be true by reframing the history of America. This was the inspiration for our work: the belief that the truth can challenge even our most deeply held beliefs if we’re willing to engage with it.


The long-form version of the “1619” film was uploaded to owned New York Times channels, including YouTube and our campaign landing page, on February 5, 2020.


Overall, the campaign drove significant lift in trust metrics across all activated channels. The general sentiment around the diversity in our reporting, both of the journalists and the journalism, was increasingly positive. The campaign resonated with younger readers (18–34 years old) and was very well-received, particularly with non-Black readers.

Thanks to the powerful message and star power of Janelle Monaé, this work also saw higher levels of view-through rates on YouTube and in key social channels, nearly double those of our previous “Truth” spots. In video channels overall, we saw strong movement in brand affinity metrics, and in audio and social channels we saw increased trust sentiments.

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