Census Bureau debuts integrated campaign to drive up response rate

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The US Census Bureau is running a $133 million campaign to promote the 2010 Census from January 18 through April.

The effort, created by a team of 14 agencies, led by Draftfcb, includes various digital tactics, such as a microsite, display and search ads, and social media. All of the media ties to the census' direct mail effort, and encourages people to respond to the direct mail census survey. The campaign's goal is to get more people to respond to the national census by building awareness and education about the once-a-decade government initiative.

“Because the census comes around only every 10 years, there is a decay in awareness,” said Jeff Tarakajian, EVP at Draftfcb. “One of the key parts of the campaign is to remind people of what it is and then to educate them on why it means something for their community. It is a factor in how federal funding is distributed to local communities.”

The previous census campaign, which ran in 2000, was the first census effort to use paid search. It helped to reverse a 30-year-long decline in public response rates by mail. 

One of the key goals of this campaign is reaching minority and ethnic audiences, some of whom do not speak English. The campaign is running in 28 languages, up from 17 in 2000.

“We know through research that there are certain segments of the population that are less likely to respond than others, and that is often people who don't speak English, so we wanted to focus on this audience especially,” said Tim Queenan, SVP of digital at Draftfcb.

More than half of the budget will be spent on educating this audience on the benefits that a reliable census can offer to their community. Census data are used to apportion congressional seats to states and to distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds to tribal, state and local governments each year. This is stressed in the creative.

The advertising rollout also includes updates on other outreach efforts, such as the “Census in Schools” program, in which kids are sent home with information on the census to give their parents. There is also a program called “Take 10” in which citizens are called to take 10 minutes to complete the survey, the shortest in US history.

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