Census campaign focuses on messaging, minority communities

WASHINGTON: The Census Bureau unveiled its four-month marketing campaign for its 2010 Census this week, integrating advertising, social media, experiential marketing, and more.

WASHINGTON: The Census Bureau unveiled its four-month marketing campaign for its 2010 Census this week, integrating advertising, social media, experiential marketing, and more. A focus this time is on minority communities, encouraging them to participate and be properly counted, which would have benefits down the line.

Overall, the Census Bureau and its team of agencies have one main goal: "to increase the proportion of American households that fill out the questionnaire and mail it back," said Robert Groves, director of the US Census Bureau. "The strategy is to get the word out in every medium, every market that we can." The campaign kicks off first with a spot during the Golden Globes on January 17 and then more officially on January 18.

Advertisements will appear during major events including the Super Bowl and the 2010 Olympics. Online, the 2010 Census has its Web site, a blog written by Groves, and a presence on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. The Portrait of America Road Tour kicked off on January 4, an educational element of the campaign.

"At this phase, all guns are blasting away at once because the basic level of knowledge of the country about the 2010 Census is at its lowest point," Groves told PRWeek. He added that the message is all about the fact that participating in the Census is important, easy, and safe.

That messaging is especially critical as the Census reaches out to multicultural groups, targeting those that may have traditionally been underrepresented due to distrust of government or lack of knowledge of the Census. In order to combat that, the Census Bureau is partnering with national, local, and community-based organizations to build trust in those communities. Ads will be produced in 28 different languages and several firms are helping with multicultural outreach, including IW Group and GlobalHue.

The budget for the entire integrated marketing campaign is $340 million, with around $133 million set aside for paid advertising. The Census Bureau is working with Draftfcb for advertising, Weber Shandwick for PR, Jack Morton for experiential marketing, IW Group for Asian-American outreach, and GlobalHue for African-American, and GlobalHue Latino for Hispanic work.

Director Groves said the money spent on this marketing campaign will save the taxpayers money in the end, which is another message point.

"We know that for every one percentage point of the household population that does not return the form, we're going to send out people to call on those households and we'll spend about $85 million doing that," he explained. "So if I can save that $85 million by increasing the response rate by 1% through advertising, it's a good deal for the taxpayer."

Weber Shandwick will help promote this and other messages, as part of its responsibilities, explained Brooke Worden, VP at Weber Shandwick. Other responsibilities include earned media, issues management, social media, and some work with ethnic media.

"It's an integrated campaign, so all companies are working together and in tandem," Worden added. The PR plan is to have a national strategy of building awareness, and regionally, equipping Census employees with tools and training.

The 2010 Census will have an impact on the country in many ways, and in communications, the expected increase in multicultural consumers, especially in areas like Texas and Arizona, will alter the way they reach out.

"I expect the Census results to highlight the demographic shifts, such as US-born Hispanics now surpassing immigrants as the biggest source of Hispanic growth," said Sonia Sroka, VP of Hispanic marketing for Porter Novelli. "We'll see an increase in specialty marketing, product development, and personalized communications."

"There is no question that the minority population is going to be the big story for 2010 and 2011, just as it was for 2000," added Armando Azarloza, the president of the Axis Agency. He suggested that the Road Tour and partnerships with community leaders will be most effective to reach the Hispanic population. "There's a little bit of an education process and I think the government has a really good story to tell. [The partners] are steadfast advocates in their communities and getting them on board can be a strong tool."

Mary Crawford, MD of public affairs at Burson-Marsteller's Washington office, agrees that the partnership element and having a credible voice in the community is necessary. This grassroots outreach, she said, is about "getting into their lives, rather than expecting them to come to you."

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