This is probably the worst commercial I have ever seen. It is perfectly designed to make someone never want to use Ancestry.com.
To recap: This commercial introduces us to Scott Krinsky, a regular guy who has a cute little story about where his ancestors came from: “The story was that my grandfather was born on the boat on the way over here. In school they had us put a tack on the map where our grandparents were born: Mine was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.” You can even hear the happiness in his voice as he tells the story. Then he goes on Ancestry.com and finds out… no, that’s not what happened. His grandfather was born in Poland, like tens of millions of other people.
Instead of leaving this poor guy alone after annihilating the myth his family has told for generations, the commercial goes on. It actually forces Scott to muster up the most insincere-sounding enthusiasm on behalf of the “service” Ancestry.com has just provide: “Wow. He was actually born in Poland. That’s amazing.” No, Scott, no it’s not.
Scott’s story ends with him talking about moving the pin over to “its proper place,” thus conjuring up the image of a schoolboy forced to relinquish the sense of pride and uniqueness that this family legend has presumably given him. The commercial might as well end with the slogan, “Ancestry.com: Crushing Dreams Since 1983.”
What’s so disheartening about Scott’s story is that it is so relatable. Every family has little myths and stories about their forerunners that get passed down and retold for generations. The fact that they get retold so often means that they inevitably get changed: They get embellished, censored, partially forgotten, confused with other stories, etc. As such, they make up the oral history of our families.
And here comes Ancestry.com, offering to wipe it all away. What’s so perplexing about the ad is that Ancestry.com chose this story specifically. The site has over a million subscribers—presumably one of them had a story about such a myth being confirmed, or even enhanced, by the historical record. And yet they chose to air Scott getting his hopes dashed.
This speaks either to a colossal misunderstanding of why people would use the site, or an admirably direct approach to advertising.