Ancestry.com has a message for America this Fourth of July weekend: We're all a lot more alike than we realize.
In the first work to come from Droga5 since it was named Ancestry's lead creative agency earlier this month, the geneology and genomics firm shows descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence reciting it. They're a diverse group ethnically and otherwise, even if they are all descended from a prototypical room full of old white men. And that's the whole point.
"We're all much more similar than you think," said Ancestry Chief Marketing Officer Vineet Mehra in an interview. "And we're using facts and data to prove it. This is not fluffy marketing. These are facts."
Of course, making that point on Independence Day in a political environment deeply polarized along ethnic and national-origin lines may seem like a political statement. But that's not where Mehra says he wants to go.
"I am so against activism marketing," Mehra said. "For me, it's not about that. It's just about how do you live above that and just talk about humanity. We're not making statements on anything. All we're saying is look, the facts tell us genetically that we are all very much the same. And we stop there."
The statement Ancestry does want to make is that it combines a huge genealogical database built on the work of subscribers since its founding in 1983, combined with a growing database based on DNA testing kits that use genomics to trace ancestry. That's the edge Mehra, a veteran of Procter & Gamble Co. and Johnson & Johnson, sees Ancestry having on upstarts like 23andMe. His dream is to apply machine learning and analytics to the two big databases with an aim to ultimately "create a relatedness graph of the world."
The 24-year-old Ancestry has been digitally focused since the internet came around, but it's spending a growing sum on TV too as it looks to get in on the genomics kit gold rush. But it's not about spending less on digital, Mehra said.
"It's just that the roles of the channels are different," he said. Most of Ancestry's digital spending is search, or Facebook display or affiliate "bottom of the funnel" advertising aimed at closing the sale, he said.
Yet that top of the funnel is getting bigger. Ancestry spent $109 million on TV over the past 52 weeks, according to iSpot.tv, up more than 40% from a year earlier.
"Our TV is about awareness, building brand affinity, building a great brand," Mehra said. But it's also helping the rest of the sales effort work better, including leading to more end sales at a time when competition in the space is fierce. He sees largely a false distinction among Silicon Valley marketers between performance and brand marketing. "I'm trying to be a champion of both," he said. "It's not either-or."