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From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

Ancestry/The Atlantic- Reclaiming Identity: A Tribute to a Lost Japanese American Legacy

Finalist in Brand Partnership


The recent release of the 1950’s Census opened a window into one of the most transformative periods in modern American history. With the United States having recently emerged from the hardships of World War 2 and the great depression and the baby boom just beginning, this data provided a treasure trove of information to help fill in gaps in family trees and learn more about our family history.   
Ancestry, committed to growing its resources for all, digitized and released these expansive census records for consumers in July of 2022.  However, many consumers lack awareness of Ancestry’s ever-expanding resources that continue to empower new family history discoveries. Ancestry’s collection of US Census records plays a vital role in learning those stories. The 1950’s Census provides details that can help piece together the family history of our parents, grandparents, and relatives.  If you were born before 1970, there’s a 70% chance your parents are in the 1950’s Census.  
Ancestry’s campaign objective was to increase awareness of the new 1950’s Census documents and data while driving consideration for Ancestry through powerful stories that show the impact that these expanding resources can have.   

Strategy and Execution

Many Americans need to be made aware of the significance of the 1950's Census and the information and discoveries that its release can uncover. To overcome these challenges, Ancestry created a campaign that used powerful storytelling to show firsthand the impact that these new family history resources can have. This story needed to unlock information about the past and show the relevance of these discoveries in the present and future. 

To tell these impactful stories, Ancestry set out to find a partner that could not only reach their core audience of A35+ but bring to life the discoveries made possible in the 1950's Census. The partnership had to do more than bring these discoveries to life; they needed to live in a contextually relevant environment that spoke to those interested in history. 

To do this, Ancestry partnered with The Atlantic around the groundbreaking release of The Atlantic Archives. Aligning perfectly with the 1950s Census launch, The Atlantic Archives digitized over 165 years of Atlantic journalism, giving readers access to stories that shaped American history dating back to 1857. 
As the exclusive launch partner of The Atlantic Archives, Ancestry showcased the 1950's Census launch through the lens of the most important cultural moments and events covered by Atlantic journalists. To do this, Ancestry and The Atlantic partnered to create the film Reclaiming Identity: A Tribute to a Lost Japanese American Legacy. This film told the emotional story of April Gilbert and her search to understand her family history and, more specifically, her Japanese identity. 
Gilbert's great-grandfather, Wasuke Hirota, was among the over 125,000 Japanese and Japanese-American detainees during World War II. While the rest of his family were released based on their mixed-race status in part due to his wife Rafaela's Mexican and Native American heritage, he remained imprisoned. He died at the incarceration camp in 1944, two years after arriving. 
Using 1950s census records from Ancestry, Gilbert traced the moment her family's identity was documented as "White" instead of "Japanese" and learned about her great-grandfather's incredible life and tragic death.  
The film lived on a custom page within The Atlantic Archives 1950's content and a custom article that spotlighted the impact and cruelty of Roosevelt's order to incarcerate Japanese American immigrants. To give viewers additional context on this period in history, Ancestry and The Atlantic ungated access to over 5,000 articles from The Atlantic Archives' 1950s content, something that has yet to be done.  
To drive the film's viewership and Gilbert's incredible family story, we created a strategic distribution and promotional plan that included native run-of-site placements across The Atlantic website that clicked through to the custom video and article. Additionally, custom content was promoted via email, along with social cutdowns across The Atlantic's Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn platforms. 
Finally, and perhaps the most incredible part of this activation, is that a great-granddaughter of Wasuke Hirota in Japan, previously unknown to April Gilbert, saw the film and reached out to connect a family that has been apart for decades.  


Ancestry successfully drove results across the upper, middle, and lower funnel, with a Dynata study showing a +23pt lift in unaided awareness, a +17pt lift in brand favorability, and a +9pt lift in consideration, surpassing Dynata benchmarks by 3-8x. 

The campaign generated double-digit brand perception lifts, with viewers noting the content as relevant (+18pt), bringing families closer together (+15pt), and always having something new to discover (+19pt).   
This campaign demonstrated Ancestry's commitment to providing consumers with every possible resource to continue making family history discoveries. 

By highlighting the effect these discoveries can have, from impacting our identity to reconnecting families, we drove awareness and consideration for Ancestry. As a result, the campaign generated double-digit brand perception lifts, with viewers noting the content as relevant (+18pt), bringing families closer together (+15pt), and always having something new to discover (+19pt). 


Video for Ancestry/The Atlantic- Reclaiming Identity: A Tribute to a Lost Japanese American Legacy

Entrant Company / Organization Name

OMD USA, Ancestry


Entry Credits