Ancestry is pulling ad with apparent slavery-era theme

Key Points
  • The ad for Ancestry Canada depicts an interracial couple planning to escape "north of the border" to be together. 
  • The spot was widely criticized on social media for insensitivity. 
  • Ancestry said in a statement it apologized for the ad and was pulling it from television. 

Genealogy company Ancestry has apologized for a commercial that depicted a Civil War slavery theme and said it is in the process of pulling the ad from television.

The spot, titled "Inseparable," depicted a white man urging a black women to "escape to the North … across the border" to be together. The ad then cut to black with the text, "Without you, the story stops here," with a voiceover reading "Uncover the lost chapters of your family history with Ancestry."

The ad from began rolling out in Canada earlier this month and was part of a campaign including two other spots. A spokeswoman didn't immediately respond on whether the ad had only appeared in Canada or if it appeared in other markets.

The spot was widely criticized on Twitter, where one called it "abhorrent" and another said it creates an "irresponsible, ahistorical depiction of the relationship between white men & black women during the period of chattel slavery that completely disregards its power dynamics & the trauma of sexual exploitation."

Another said "We shouldn't whitewash history through media."




In an emailed statement to CNBC, a company spokeswoman said the company apologized for the spot.

"Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history," the statement said. "This ad was intended to represent one of those stories. We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused. We are in the process of pulling the ad from television and have removed it from YouTube."

As of press time, the ad had been pulled from YouTube. According to iSpot, the estimated media spend on the spot topped $250,000.

Ancestry Canada's ad agency Anomaly Toronto did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

The controversy comes as Ancestry is preparing an initial public offering, Bloomberg reported Thursday.