"This part makes my eyes blue"

Behind The Scenes Of The Ad Campaign For 23andMe's $99 DNA Test

How do you make people comfortable with genetic testing? Go inside a bold ad campaign.

When conceptualizing the first commercial for 23andMe, ad agency Arnold had a challenge: destigmatize genetic testing while communicating what the company actually does. "There's a clear division if you ask people, 'Do you want to take the test?' " says Arnold's chief creative officer, Aaron Griffiths. "My mother says, 'I don't want to know when I'm going to die.' It's a very psychological thing."

To play down the sci-fi element, Griffiths and Co. eschewed the typical imagery of a camera zooming into the human body to focus on a strand of DNA, and instead relied on simple, friendly art—plus, actual human beings. The actors featured in the 60-second spot—which began airing widely in August—were required to go through the testing themselves. (None of them balked at the idea.) The script was written afterward, with the actors opening up about their own genetic discoveries. "Faking it was not an option," Griffiths says. "We encouraged them not to act, but to really react to their results. It was the first time they were talking about them, and they were having emotional responses to what they might mean."

Griffiths also drew inspiration from art history, particularly self-portraiture. 23andMe, he notes, is just another way to go beneath the surface, a "promise that you can actually know so much more about yourself," he says. He walks us through three frames of the ad:

1. The eye guy

"The idea was to bring the DNA to the surface to show how it reflects in your physical appearance."

2. The Bar Guy

"It was important that they be interacting with their data and DNA, because without 23and­Me, you can't. You can't manipulate [the data], but you can go in, get a better understanding, and play with [it]."

3. The Older Guy

"He found out he has a high possibility of sickle-cell anemia. At this point in the spot, we're transitioning to what this means for them."

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  • Kiki

    I have the good fortune of being a member of 23andMe as a result of...well...never mind. In any event, 23andMe is AWESOME!! It goes through your DNA via a salivary test and there is no way to "fudge" the test or get around its results. It gives you "potentials" of what your risk factors are based on your genetic make-up and family history. It's pretty cool!! I would recommend it t/for anyone who's curious about the probability/possibility of, say, diabetes, breast cancer, cancer, Parkinson's Disease, etc. It's kinda scary, in a way, but, all the same, gives you an idea of things (health-wise) that you should be aware of that COULD, potentially, be a health risk because of your family history (I hope I'm not being redundant. Somehow, I think I am...LOL). Anyway, I think this is REALLY important for people to know; especially for those whose mother and/or father were adopted as children and they have no idea of what their biological medical history is. My advice?? EVERYONE should do this! :D