Each week, we convene for a caffeine-fueled “Lightning Chat” about the past week’s hottest news. Through cross-functional input and debate from different teams – designers, developers, strategists and anyone else that’s in the trenches on a daily basis – we aim to find new perspectives and “lightning bolt” ideas about branding and marketing. Here are a few topics we covered this week, and why we think they matter.
Ancestry.com apologizes for racially insensitive ad
The genealogy company Ancestry.com received major backlash for their recent commercial that very clearly romanticizes slavery and interracial relationships in the Antebellum South. Set in the 1800s, a white man holds out a ring to a black woman, presumably a slave, asking her to run away with him to freedom in the North. Afterward, the screen fades to black and a voiceover recites, “Uncover the lost chapters of your family history with Ancestry.com.” The message, “without you, the story stops here,” appears on the screen followed by the image of a marriage certificate.
The ad aired on some television stations in Utah, but after the video caught fire on YouTube it was immediately taken down both on TV and online.
ooooh my god LMAOOO who approved this ancestry commercial??? pic.twitter.com/Isy0k4HTMA
— Euphoria's carnival episode (@mannyfidel) April 18, 2019
We’re assuming this concept, however offensive, originally stemmed from significant data showing that many Ancestry.com users search the site for Civil War-era family history. But the spot should have told that story in a way that wasn’t so wildly misrepresentative of historical norms. This commercial and others like it (Pepsi, anyone?) act as a reminder that every creative decision must be thought through and tested by a variety of perspectives, both internally and externally.
Sherwin Williams translates brainwaves into new paint Colors
Paint company Sherwin Williams took experiential marketing to another level with its new activation titled, ‘Thinking in Color,” the first user-generated content color spectrum ever created. It’s an immersive experience that helps inspire creativity by actually visualizing the colors a person’s mind creates through a brain-monitoring headset. According to Adsoftheworld, since the debut of Thinking in Color, over 2,000 participants have generated unique hues from 16 million possibilities.
We love that Sherwin Williams’ core product—paint—had little to do with this campaign. It was more about leaving the audience with an intimate feeling of what it’s like to interact with the brand: exploring infinite choices in color and bringing what’s inside the mind to life.
Corona blocks Ipanema Beach With A Wall of Trash to Highlight Pollution
According to the United Nations, it is estimated that up to 13 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year—the equivalent of a garbage truckload every minute. To bring attention to this issue, Mexican beer brand Corona blocked off Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro with a wall of trash. A powerful sign on the wall read, “One day, the trash left on the beach will stop you from getting into it.
Created by agency Soko in partnership with Mutato, this campaign is part of a global deal between Corona and NGO Parley Of The Oceans that helps to protect the sea from plastic garbage.
It was cool to see Corona parlay their well-known “Find Your Beach” tagline into a corporate social responsibility campaign. Of the many experiential campaigns we’ve seen this year, this campaign, in particular, was an innovative approach to a serious issue that many consumers may have trouble truly comprehending. And the campaign was made all the more relevant by its Earth Day release.
Xbox gets rid of disk drives in fun mockumentary
This week, Xbox made the smallest of changes to its gaming console by removing the disk drive. To announce the change, the company released a 90-second mockumentary that takes a “behind-the-scenes” look at how its designers and engineers came up with this simple idea.
As our Chief Creative Director says, you don’t have to change much to change everything. Xbox’s tongue-in-cheek announcement was a great way to get the word out and reinforce its fun relationship with consumers. We drew some parallels between this campaign and the playfully self-deprecating messaging Carlsberg UK used to relaunch its beer products, centered around mean Twitter reviews and an admission that it was “probably not the best beer in the world after all.”