AncestryDNA – Australia, where do you think you come from?

The Challenge

‘AncestryDNA’ is the first home DNA testing kit in Australia to help you uncover your ethnic mix and discover ancestors and connections you never knew you had.  This was a big launch for Ancestry in May 2015 as it was the first physical product consumers could purchase from the online genealogy membership site. With genealogy considered a hobby for older generations, AncestryDNA was an opportunity to attract Australians of all ages. We faced three big challenges:

  • Normalisation – conveying the idea that it is ‘normal’ to take a DNA test.
  • Socialisation – explaining to a broad audience what DNA testing is and how it can be used to identify who you are and where you come from.
  • A lack of accessible local media angles – pre-launch, there were no local users to profile Australian human interest stories and no budget for celebrity ambassadors.

The PR campaign smashed Ancestry’s sales target for the product, with DNA kit sales reaching 70% of the annual sales target in one month alone! This was due to the 230 pieces of media coverage achieved during the campaign, which created over 77 million media impressions.


  • Drive sales of the AncestryDNA sales kit and achieve the first quarter sales target
  • Generate one hero TV piece and 10 tier one media personalities to take the DNA test, with resulting articles reaching more than 30 million
  • Convey the key message that taking a DNA test is a normal and safe thing to do.

Audience Insight

We’ve partnered with Ancestry for five years and have learnt that storytelling is key to driving interesting local media angles and broad reach. We felt in this case it would be even more critical to our task of helping to normalise the process of taking a DNA test to understand your past.

Creative Idea

With no local users to pitch to media, our creative idea was to get journalists to take the DNA test and share their personal story and discovery about their past – this made them ‘the user story’.  This approach ensured immediate engagement with the product and normalised the use of the AncestryDNA kit, communicating the important message: “if DNA testing is OK for the journalist, then it must be OK for me.”

An unexpected celebrity connection revealed during our hero TV coverage piece helped explain the AncestryDNA kit and demonstrated to people just what you can discover. In fact, this surprise news became a news story in itself.


PR was the key communication channel, supported only by eDMs to existing Ancestry members.

We pitched the DNA tests to tier one media targets and processed them under embargo prior to the product launch.

We then organised pre-briefings during that same period with Ancestry’s Commercial Development Director, Brad Argent, to ensure each reporter understood their DNA results and the information it uncovered about them. It also enabled Brad to conduct more background research into each journalist’s family tree and combine those findings with their DNA results. This personalised the stories and drove deeper engagement with the Ancestry platform. All stories published showed the link between DNA testing and the Ancestry site as if they were a paying subscriber.

Two months from launch, the PR team pre-pitched exclusively to Australia’s highest reaching national TV breakfast show, Channel 7 Sunrise.  Working closely with the show’s producers, we arranged for the two hosts, Samantha Armytage and David Koch (Kochie), to both take the AncestryDNA test in advance of a live interview with Ancestry, so the results could be unveiled on the show. This was our hero earned media broadcast piece for the campaign.  This was followed by tailored pitches to other key media and a weekend newspaper strategy.

Results and Evaluation

The hero TV piece uncovered its own surprise. The AncestryDNA test run by the celebrity TV anchor revealed that she was actually genetically related to our client, Brad, whom she was interviewing at that moment. This segment ran for more than six minutes and was syndicated around Australia to 43 other TV stations, reaching 2.3 million people. The on-air revelation resulted in other major media running the surprise story, creating more positive coverage and extending the audience reach to more than 12 million Australians.

The number of DNA kits purchased in Australia in May alone achieved 70% of the annual sales target against a KPI of just 25% of the annual sales target.

The hero TV segment had a unique URL for viewers to purchase the DNA kit and that proved its impact in driving online sales, with the client saying it contributed to the majority of the DNA kits purchased.

The launch of AncestryDNA got huge traction and generated 230 pieces of coverage across all media, including outlets popular with younger generations, with momentum continuing in the two weeks that followed launch. This helped deliver an overall 77.5 million impressions (258% of target).

All coverage normalised DNA testing and educated audiences on how the product works, directing them to the website. The decision to ask journalists take the AncestryDNA proved to be a very effective strategy to achieve this, (14 journalists did so vs KPI of 10) as each published their own results, which ensured engaging and personal stories.