3000 years in 30 seconds: how we made the Ancestry TV ad

how to create tv ad

When you think of a pop-up, maybe a delicious ramen joint comes to mind. But just imagine if your entire history could ‘pop-up’ too? Strap in for our step-by-step story of how DCMN’s very own Creation & Production (or: C&P) team created a stellar TV ad for our client Ancestry using a pop-up book. The first ever all-3D spot we created in-house and one of our best from last year.

Genealogy has never been more popular, thanks to companies like Ancestry, the global leader in family history. Using cutting-edge DNA technology and billions of historical records, Ancestry is able to connect people with the ancestors and places from their past, helping tell the story of who they are and where they come from.


Ancestry came to us last year with a request to make a TVC for them, showing all their extensive features in just 30 seconds. Through their services, they allow you to travel back in time – something we at DCMN tried to replicate in our ad. “The TV ad for Ancestry is done in a photobook style to highlight the context of family memories,” explains copywriter Philip Thys. “We used old documents and family photos to communicate that you get information dating back centuries. You can also see scenes from a family life to help you better understand how Ancestry can provide you with detailed and insightful information about your family.”

Making an ad can be a creative challenge, one we jumped at the chance to tackle. Our C&P team had a number of challenges, especially with regards to making sure the creative vision was historically accurate and finding the right visual materials. Lots of research was necessary – a factory from 200 years ago simply does not look like a modern factory today! Here’s the process we went through to bring this pop-up photobook to life.

How we did it

Let’s go behind the scenes with our C&P team to see how they created this particular TVC, answering the big question: How to tell a story that lasts around 3000 years – in just 30 seconds?

1. Mood board: This is where we start. This helps with communication with the client, as then everybody understands better where the spot should go visually. In this case: the three different styles were all based on a pop-up book that was part of our vision for Ancestry’s TV ad.

2. Storyboard: Here you take the mood board and start drawing key frames of the story you want to tell. Often at this stage you have some scenes that will not make it in a final spot. It’s crucial here to remember to reduce the content to fit into your time-frame (in this case: 30 seconds).

3. Animatic: This is a “moving storyboard”. You take only the very simple elements and animate them within a 3D space. This is a way to check if the story you have in mind fits on the timeline when animated.

4. Assets preparation: There is an incredible amount of work that goes into every single element of the animation. Example: a letter. For a letter, you need to separate the text and the stamps, plus the movement of an unfolded old letter. First you need to animate that individually in a 2D space and then put it all into 3D. That’s not mentioning other features, like the smoke from the chimney, the walls of the house or then the grains of the fields – which actually required hair simulation to be given volume!

5. Fix technical problems: It was a challenge to animate a pop-up book, and to get right how paper behaves. We had issues including the pop-up items disappearing through pages, which we had to fix.

6. Look development: In the final production stages you really start to see the whole ad come to life, bringing the emotion to a model, putting all the pieces together: 

  • Layout 
  • Modelling 
  • Texture & light
  • Final render – rendering is the creation of the frames of a movie from a composition
  • Compositing – combining of visual elements from separate sources into single images, often to create the illusion that all those elements are parts of the same scene

Reach out if you wanna make your brand DNA pop out and make the first in a generation of hit TV ads: hello@dcmn.com.



  • Producer: Birte Jacob & Jan Interthal
  • Motion Designer: Mark Heutink
  • 3D Artist: Tiago Castro
  • Art Director: Vishal Shah
  • Copywriter: Philip Thys
  • Sound/SFX: Daniel Großmann by DASMO & MANIA MUSIC
  • Music Composition: DASMO & MANIA MUSIC

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