The Challenge

When best laid plans for celebrating VE Day 75 went awry Ancestry – the UK’s biggest family history website – joined forces with the government to enable the Great British public to commemorate this anniversary in a manner fitting for such a momentous occasion.

Our Approach

The Brief

May 8th 2020 was heralded to be a landmark patriotic moment, marking 75 years since Victory in Europe with a special bank holiday and a series of large-scale government-led celebratory events. Covid-19 scuppered these plans and, instead, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport partnered with Ancestry to ensure that the moment was still recognised and marked in a safe socially distant way. To ensure that everyone – not just members – could commemorate VE Day 75 by exploring what wartime Britain was like for their family, Ancestry decided to give open access to its catalogue of records from 4th-10th May. Our challenge was to get the word out, and encourage everyone to discover their personal untold family stories from WWII.

What we did

Our approach was to announce Ancestry’s free access alliance with DCMS in a tonally fitting manner with suitable scale, while also ensuring prominent placement around relevant commemorative editorial.

With no VE Day video asset, radio led the charge as our broadcast channel with Hugh Bonneville’s VO adding appropriate gravitas. Close collaboration with premium newsbrand editorial teams ensured our display ads ran alongside all commemorative content both online and in print throughout the week. To maximise awareness on VE Day itself, we layered in cherry-picked takeovers showing iconic imagery of wartime St Paul’s. We also secured last minute access to 3 key programmes with our normal brand TV ad – Captain Tom’s War, VE Day in Colour and VE Days: Lost Films. The cumulative effect ensured that Ancestry & DCMS’s free access to records was unmissable.

The Results

Our media strategy positioned Ancestry’s partnership with DCMS around the single most important WWII anniversary in the UK, and reached almost half of UK adults during the week. The campaign drove more traffic to Ancestry’s site than ever before, with over 3x as many visits compared to normal benchmarks, ensuring that millions across the UK were able to commemorate VE Day 75.

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