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Evaluation of the 2010 Census Communications Campaign

The following Request for Information (RFI) is issued solely for Market Research purposes. It does not constitute a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a commitment to issue a Request for Proposal by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau is not accepting offers at this time nor will the information provided be evaluated or considered as an offer. This RFI does not commit the Census Bureau to contract for any supply or service whatsoever. The Census Bureau is not responsible for any administrative cost incurred by any vendor in response to this RFI.


The U.S. Census Bureau is developing requirements for the 2010 Census Communications Campaign Evaluation. As part of this process, the Census Bureau wants to learn more about the methods and best practices currently engaged by industry when evaluating the success and effectiveness of a national, integrated communications program.

The information gathered in response to this RFI will assist the Census Bureau to:

  1. Determine the best and most appropriate methodologies available to evaluate the success and effectiveness of the 2010 Census communications campaign;
  2. Determine the availability of potential sources for these services; and
  3. Estimate the cost of such evaluation.


Each decade, the Census Bureau is responsible for conducting a complete enumeration of the resident population of the United States and its territories in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The next census will be conducted on April 1st, 2010. Census participation (of which mailing back a census questionnaire is one mode) is critical to the public. The decennial enumeration is the basis for the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives (and is required in the Constitution). Population counts are also used for redistricting (the process of redrawing state legislative and congressional district boundaries every 10 years by state legislatures following the U.S. Census) and the allocation to state, local, and tribal governments of almost $300 billion in federal funds each year.

During the decennial census operations of 1980 and 1990, the principle challenge was the progressive decline in the mail response rates, particularly among certain segments of the population. This situation presented an enormous increase in cost for the Census Bureau.

In an attempt to reduce the declining response rate, for Census 2000 the Census Bureau implemented a Partnership and Marketing Program (PMP), an initiative that combined a paid advertising and promotion campaign with an expanded outreach component. The program had three main goals: (1) to promote public awareness of the Census, (2) to increase the level of mail response, (3) and to reduce the differential undercount across population groups.

Based on the success and lessons learned from the 2000 marketing experience, a similar, but broader and more fully integrated initiative, has been established for the 2010 Census.

2010 Census Communications Campaign

On September 2007, the Census Bureau contracted the services of DraftFCB, Inc., a communications agency, to create, produce and implement an integrated marketing and communications campaign in support of the 2010 census. The contract, known as the 2010 Census Communications Campaign contract, was awarded as an Indefinite Delivery - Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ), multiple year contract (one 12-month base year and three 12-month option years), with an estimated value of $207,000,000 (but not to exceed $300,000,000.)

The communications campaign supported by the above named contract must create awareness about the census and motivate each household to fill out and return the census questionnaire as soon as possible after receipt, as the cost of conducting the census multiplies when forms are not returned promptly. The Census Bureau estimates that two-thirds of the overall 2010 Census costs will be spent enumerating people who do not reply by mail. It costs approximately $75 million to enumerate each additional percentage point of households that requires follow-up by a census enumerator.

The 2010 Census Communications Campaign has three goals:

  1. Increase the mail response rate,
  2. Increase accuracy and reduce the differential undercount, and
  3. Increase cooperation with enumerators (door-to-door census-takers).

To be successful, the communications contractor must develop and implement a campaign targeted to all and every single segment of the population. The campaign must integrate marketing, paid advertising and earned media, public relations, events, outreach and partnerships into one holistic and cohesive program. The 2010 Census communications campaign program is arguably the most comprehensive social marketing and communications campaign conducted in the United States as it is intended to reach all audiences.

The first task under the contract is for the contractor to develop the National Communications Plan pdf, which will be the blueprint for the campaign. The draft plan is scheduled to be delivered to the Census Bureau in early February 2008, with a final plan delivered in May 2008. After the Census Bureau approves the plan, the development phase (mid-2008 to mid-2009) and implementation phase (mid-2009 to 2010) will follow.

More information regarding the 2000 Census PMP and the 2010 Census Communications Campaign can be found in the Library.


Measuring the performance of the communications campaign against the above referenced goals presents big challenges for the Census Bureau. For example, the first two goals of the campaign are not complementary. Allocating resources to increase the number of mail responses may do little to reduce the differential undercount. However, resources allocated to reduce the differential undercount will have little impact on increasing overall mail response rates because the hard-to-count groups are a relatively small part of the population. For this reason, the Census Bureau would like to learn more how to conduct an effective evaluation of the campaign.

In order for an evaluation to be effective, it must evaluate how successful the communications strategy was in improving both response (i.e., increase in response rate) and accuracy (i.e., reduction in differential undercount) of the census. The Census Bureau expects that the campaign evaluation would provide answer to the following questions:

  1. How do the separate components of the communications strategy (e.g., advertising, partnerships, etc.) contribute to the improvements in response and accuracy?
  2. How effective were the targeted messages at reaching specific audiences?
  3. Did the communications strategy change attitudes or behavior toward and/or increase awareness of participation in the census?

The Census Bureau wants to learn more about the methods to conduct an effective evaluation of the 2010 Census communications campaign and the availability of potential contractors that could develop and conduct this evaluation, taking into account the following dimensions of the campaign: extent (i.e., national and local), reach (i.e., all audiences), variety of communications strategies engaged (i.e., media, events, PR, outreach and grassroots) and timeframe.

Please click on the link below to provide your responses to this Request for Information.

Provide responses to the Request for Information (RFI) (This has ended.)

2010 Census Communications Campaign Web site

Library - This section contains documents related to the 2000 Census PMP Evaluation and to the 2010 Census.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) updated 1/10/08

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Acquisition Division
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