Census Chief Might Help Networks With Research Knowledge



At some point after all the results come in from the 2010 Census, Robert M. Groves will transition out of his post as Census Bureau chief. Should he shun a return to academia, he’d be a darn good hire for a TV network.

He’d probably welcome the increase in pay. But with research taking an increased role, who better to craft a pitch to advertisers – or advise executives internally -- than someone who has poured over and validated mass amounts of demographic data.

He knows where the Burmese are, so to speak (Ft. Wayne, Ind.).

You’re CBS and want to finally convince advertisers to go boomer? Groves has the insight about a higher percentage of the 55-plus crowd still working. With pensions fading and portfolios suffering, people are finding they need to -- quite literally -- put off the golden years. That could mean higher incomes for an advertiser to tap into for a longer time.

You’re MTV and want some ideas on marketing? Early during last year’s Census response period, Groves & Co. found many 18-to-24 year-olds didn’t intend to participate. The Bureau swiftly convened focus groups and discovered the group saying: “I thought this was for adults.”

That made some sense since the group lived at home 10 years before and their parents filled out forms. But the Bureau began dumping a ton of money into digital advertising to clue them in.  

Groves, who spoke Wednesday at an Advertising Research Foundation event, also harbors some insight into effective marketing strategies on college campuses, though his knowledge may not exceed intuition. “Sex was a selling device,” he said.

On one Indiana campus, a Census PR effort promoted how little time it would take to fill out the form, which brought a student-developed sign reading: “Easier than your girlfriend. Faster than your boyfriend. Fill it out.” There’s got to be an MTV tagline somewhere in there.

Groves has more perspicacity to offer a younger-skewing network: there is not just an expanding multicultural America, but a growth in multicultural individuals. Those are people checking more than one box under the “race” section on the Census form. The group grew at a rate of 30% to 60% over the past 10 years.

This mosaic-ization will only continue. To listen to Groves, this could bring some challenges within the marketing ecosystem, but also opportunities with people who might have a foot in two cultures and an ability to sort of translate between each.

Of course, if Groves -- with a Ph.D. in sociology and a long-time Michigan professor -- were to put out a “for hire” sign for TV networks, a bidding war could heat up between Univision and Telemundo. The story of the 2010 Census, which could have been written in 2005 (or 1995, for that matter), is the boom in Hispanic America.

(Much of the final Census results will be released Thursday, providing the details. A live Webcast is scheduled for 2 p.m. Fiestas are planned across Spanish-language media.)

Last year left Groves well-armed with figures about the Hispanic population, such as the prevalence of those speaking Spanish at home and English elsewhere. And he has much to say about a dispersal trend in the Hispanic community, the departure from cities. In the Atlanta area, for example, the number of Hispanic residents spreading to the collar counties is soaring.

“The suburbanization of the minority population is a phenomenon over the past decade,” Groves said.

Broadly, Groves has some cred if he were to become a network ambassador to Madison Avenue. At some level, he’s overseen a massive campaign -- stretching from a Super Bowl spot to targeted marketing in 28 languages -- as with the Census spent $300 million to $400 million in advertising last year.

As the Bureau sought to get more Americans to return their questionnaires, it figured that for every 1% increase it produced, that would save $85 million in the costs associated with knocking on doors later.

“The message got through and it changed behavior,” Groves said.

The director can also say he can manage a budget. The Bureau returned $1.6 billion to the government last year as it completed its work.








1 comment about "Census Chief Might Help Networks With Research Knowledge".
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  1. Al Cross from Inst. for Rural Jour. & Community Issues, March 23, 2011 at 8:58 p.m.

    Learn how to spell "pored"

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