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Advertising Campaign

Census 2000 Advertising Campaign
The Census 2000 Advertising Campaign was the first-ever paid campaign for a census. Charged with reaching all adults living in the United States (including Puerto Rico and the island areas), the advertising agencies had a challenge that was virtually unprecedented in the advertising industry.

The Ad Agencies
Five expert advertising agencies made up the Census 2000 Ad Team: Young & Rubicam, New York (Y&R) - the team's lead agency; The Chisholm-Mingo Group - specializing in African American and emerging audiences from Africa and the Caribbean; The Bravo Group - with expertise in Hispanic audiences; Kang & Lee - specializing in Asian and emerging audiences from Russia, Poland, and Arabic-speaking countries; and g&g advertising - experts in reaching American Indian and Alaska Natives. While Y&R developed the overall strategy for the campaign and created ads for the Diverse America portion (everyone who consumes English-language media), the four partner agencies researched and created ads and media plans for their target audiences.

The Media Campaign
More than 250 TV, radio, print, outdoor, and Internet ads in 17 languages were created to reach 99 percent of all US residents. The census message was heard or seen on average over 50 times. Over 130,000 announcements were carried by more than 3,000 media outlets. Over 71,000 radio spots ran. The Hispanic newspaper buy was the largest single media buy for a Spanish-language campaign. Value added opportunities negotiated by Y&R and its partner agencies exceeded $10.8 million. The number of TV spots for American Indians and Native Alaskans was doubled due to skilled negotiations for free bonus spots by Y&R.

The Message
Extensive research among many diverse audiences helped form the campaign's core message: "This is your future. Don't leave it blank." It was clear that the Census was irrelevant or misunderstood by many. The ad agencies needed to find a way to dispel the idea that the Census was nothing more than the federal government's head count. The campaign had to convince a skeptical public that there was something to be gained by answering the Census, or something to be lost by not answering.

The message strategy was to let people know how answering the census could benefit themselves, their families, or their communities. This benefits message worked for all audiences but was more effective when adapted specifically for each audience. For example, African Americans expressed a strong sense of group identity which inspired The Chisholm-Mingo Group to modify the tagline to: "This is our future. Don't' leave it blank." Because American Indians and Alaska Natives hold their elders and children in high esteem, their tagline was: "Generations are counting on this. Don't leave it blank." All logos, taglines, and other graphic elements were posted on the Internet so that local governments and other census partners could use them.

The Results
* For the first time in census history, the mail response rate increased over the previous census, from 65 to 67 percent.

* The Census ad campaign was ranked the second most effective campaign according to AdTrack, a USA TODAY consumer poll.

* The Census Bureau ranked 53rd in spending among all advertisers for the first half of 2000.

* Results of an independent evaluation of the partnership and marketing program will be available in Fall 2001.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Contact: Census 2000 Publicity Office
Created: September 20, 1999
Last Revised: June 14, 2010 at 01:38:52 PM