'Coco' filmmakers discover family history in latest Ancestry spot

Content Collective takes the Pixar film's creators on their own genealogy journeys.

For the second weekend in a row, Pixar’s latest animated feature "Coco" dominated the the box office in the U.S. and abroad. With its heartwarming story of a young Mexican boy who reconnects with his family’s heritage, the film is among other things a powerful counter to America’s political climate.

Its emphasis on the importance of lineage also made it a perfect fit for partnering with genealogy giant Ancestry, which offers DNA testing kits and other resources for tracking family history. In a spot by Omnicom’s Content Collective, Ancestry’s lead genealogist Jenn Utley reveals the results of personal DNA tests to Coco filmmakers Adrian Molina, Darla Anderson and Lee Unkrich, mirroring the journey of the film’s main character. 


"Ancestry’s products are storytellers in their own right as they take consumers on personal journeys of self-discovery every day," said Content Collective director of content Caragh McGrath. "Spotlighting Darla, Lee and Adrian on that same journey was the most candid way to illustrate Ancestry’s unique capabilities."

In "Coco," Miguel, a young boy who dreams of being a musician, discovers that an ancestor was a famous guitarist and travels to the afterlife to learn more about his family’s past. In the spot, co-directors Molina and Unkrich learn of ancestors who were artists, while producer Anderson meets a maternal ancestor who worked in Hollywood during the industry’s Golden Age. 

But while the film is visually lush, this spot takes a very straightforward approach, sitting down the filmmakers to look at documents and capturing their reactions in real time. None of them had ever taken a DNA ancestry test before, so it was all new information, and a simple presentation was the best way to get out of the way and highlight the impact of these discoveries. "The genuine emotions captured in these reveals effortlessly translated into compelling and engaging content," said McGrath. 

The spot is a standalone execution, rather than part of an ongoing campaign (Ancestry’s agency of record is Droga5, which created a Pixar-animated spot for "Coco" last month). But the alignment between the film and Ancestry’s services was too perfect to miss, even if only for a one-off, said Ancestry CMO Vineet Mehra. "Coco is the literal portrayal of Ancestry’s brand purpose of unlocking your past to inspire your future." A spokesperson for Disney, which owns Pixar, said the partnership is "perfectly organic." 


The partnership is the latest move for the country’s largest genealogy company, which earlier this year delayed an IPO and lost its CEO when Tim Sullivan stepped down from the role to become chairman of the board. Earlier this year, Ancestry released its first execution with Droga5, a powerful spot released for the 4th of July that gathered diverse descendants of signers of the Declaration of Independence. Like the most recent "Coco" spot, "Declaration Descendants" positioned the company as one that’s willing to wade into political waters when doing so aligns well with their services.

But this was the first time Ancestry has partnered with a Hollywood production, and McGrath said it was a perfect way to kick things off. "The best partnerships come to life through collaboration and that is evidently the case here."

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