Colonial Williamsburg, Where the Past is Prey

A museum actually had a Superbowl commercial! That’s right, Colonial Williamsburg aired an ad in three major markets hoping to reach their most fertile hunting grounds. While the Game Day spot was 30 seconds long they release this one minute extended-cut version online:

With this commercial Colonial Williamsburg’s attempts at getting attention yet again got attention. Mayhaps not the kind the they were aiming at. And we don’t just mean our past views (here and here) of their advertising campaigns or their new, but questionable public programs. It seems not everyone was happy with how they seemed to undo American history or that they showed the Towers collapsing on 9/11. But those comments miss the mark.

Williamsburg wanted to be provocative. Clearly they were successful, because their three-city ad has become national news. That is not outrageous, that’s marketing. Besides this commercial is far better than some of their earlier attempts. This one is at least grounded in history. Perhaps Mitchell Reiss, President & CEO, described the commercial best when he said, “These ads take you backwards…” And they do, they take you all the way back to 2012 and this

You could call it a reenactment. Everything from the “We the People” intros to the historical footage was similar. In fact the only noticeable differences are the direction the film rolls in and that it’s Tom Brokaw narrating, not a blue-eyed, blonde girl.* Maybe Williamsburg used the premise because the Constitution Center’s ad worked so well. Or perhaps CW is simply uncreative and lazy and hoped no one would notice.

In all honesty let Williamsburg continue to take from others, lest they inflict their old work on us, like the “It stays with you” campaigns of recent memory:

Yep, still creepy.


* There is a third difference: the Constitution Center called it’s own ad “exciting” despite itself.

About T.H. Gray

T.H. Gray is the self-appointed court jester and Dr. Demento for the history museum field. A lifelong museum professional and reenactor, he is a graduate of the prestigious Peale-Barnum Public History Museum Studies Program. Until 2011, when the AHS hired him away, he was on staff at the Benjamin Dover Memorial Museum & Swimming Pool ("Our History is All Wet!"). He remembers when museums were still about history, science, and art. BTW, all of these posts say they are by T.H. Gray because he can't turn off the byline. Credit, when due, is given. View all posts by T.H. Gray

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