Government Preps 2020 Census Communications Contract Review

The U.S. Census Bureau is gearing up for a pitch for its communications program contract for the 2020 Census. The program is designed to underscore to the U.S. population the importance of participating in the census. The count is taken every 10 years. 

The solicitation process for the contract is tentatively scheduled to begin in December. The Bureau expects to select the winner by next August, but stressed that all dates related to the process are subject to change and the availability of funds. 

The 2010 Census promotion program was handled by Interpublic Group’s Draftfcb (now FCB). The overarching theme unifying all messaging in 2010 was “It’s In Our Hands,” which cast every individual’s participation as a responsibility. In 2010 The Census Bureau spent nearly $143 million on ads according to Kantar Media.

As you would expect, the program is huge, given that it targets literally everyone in the country. Last time around, paid media messages were created in 14 different languages and PR outreach was delivered in 19 languages. 



A report detailing the 2010 effort noted that “every element of the campaign will be researched among its intended target audience(s) to ensure effectiveness before it is deployed in the marketplace. Each piece of promotional material is based on validated communications strategies, ensuring that the overall intended message is clear, compelling and persuasive and, more important, not potentially off-putting to other groups that may see or hear it. Research is conducted in-language as needed.” 

The budget for the 2010 communications program was in the $300 million range and is expected to be in that ball park for the upcoming program although a precise figure was not immediately available. 

An RFI that was issued by the Census Bureau last December cited the dramatic changes that have occurred throughout the communications landscape since the last count was taken. It said it “fully intends to harness these emerging technologies and channels as an integral part of its communication program for the 2020 Census.” 

Currently, the bureau expects to issue a draft RFP in early December and after feedback a final RFP in mid-January 2016. Presentations will be made in April and May. 

More on the upcoming review process and earlier RFI can be found here.


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