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Census Bureau’s 2020 Census Communications Campaign Tagline

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After years of research and surveys, dozens of focus group sessions and numerous tests across the country, the U.S. Census Bureau recently announced its planned communications tagline and strategy: “Shape your future. START HERE.”

Promotional and outreach activities are ramping up across the nation ahead of the 2020 Census — from establishing local and state complete count committees, to partners coming together to reduce the undercount of children and other populations.

The “Shape your future. START HERE.” tagline will be incorporated across Census Bureau outreach and partnership awareness materials including the 2020 Census paid advertising campaign that launches in January 2020.

Census 2020 Logo with Tagline

“We undertook an unprecedented amount of research to help us learn more about what potential barriers, attitudes and motivators America had about participating in the upcoming census,” said Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham.

“The tagline and platform arose from that research and have been rigorously tested to ensure that our campaign effectively communicates that when the public responds to the 2020 Census, they will know they are helping to shape the future of their community for the next 10 years,” he said.

The “Shape your future. START HERE.” tagline will be incorporated across Census Bureau outreach and partnership awareness materials including the 2020 Census paid advertising campaign that launches in January 2020.

The creative platform will help outreach efforts by states, local communities and philanthropic organizations. In addition, it allows partners to complement and build off of the $500 million communications campaign created by the Census Bureau. 

Reaching Diverse Populations

The research behind the communications platform was paired with expertise of multicultural advertising agencies seasoned in reaching diverse audiences. These agencies are part of the Census Bureau’s communications contractor, Team Y&R.

The Census Bureau and Team Y&R developed the communications strategy with more testing than any previous census campaign.

The Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivators (CBAMS) study is the foundational research for the creative platform. In the last decennial census, the advertising and promotional campaign was informed by a telephone survey of 4,000 respondents.

For the 2020 Census, the research program for the communications campaign began with the CBAMS study, which included a quantitative survey with more than 17,000 responses coming in by internet and mail, as well as a separate qualitative component of 42 focus groups with more than 300 participants targeting different audiences.

Once devised, the creative platform went into additional rounds of testing with all key multicultural audiences, using a combination of online quantitative testing, in-person focus groups, and community representative review sessions with participants.

The tests showed that the tagline works in multiple languages and cultures, which is critical to achieving a complete and accurate census.

The Census Bureau and Team Y&R are also developing creative materials under the “Shape your future. START HERE.” platform. They will be tested extensively with diverse audiences around the country before they are developed into ads for placement.

The 2020 Census advertising campaign will be in English and 12 other languages.

Communications Campaigns Boost Response Rates

The Census Bureau utilized an advertising, partnership and communications campaign in 2000 and 2010 to increase awareness and participation in the count.

Higher self-response rates increase the accuracy of the census and ­save taxpayer money by lowering census follow-up costs for nonresponding households.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census of the population be conducted once every 10 years for the purposes of reapportioning Congress. Census data is also used to determine how more than $675 billion in federal funds are distributed back to states and local communities every year for services and infrastructure, including health care, jobs, schools, roads, and businesses.


Virginia Hyer is assistant chief in the Census Bureau’s Media Relations Branch.


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Page Last Revised - February 25, 2022
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