Massive 2020 Census Campaign Kicks Off This Week

The U.S. Census Bureau is launching its massive campaign today to prepare the public for this year’s Census. Some $250 million in measured media expenditure has been earmarked for the effort.

WPP’s VMLY&R won lead agency duties for the integrated communications contract for 2020 Census in 2016.

The “Shape Your Future. START HERE.” communications platform is the foundation for all advertising and communications about the 2020 Census. This tagline is designed to highlight the fact that people can shape their future by responding to the 2020 Census.

More than 1,000 ads targeting an array of demographics are being created for the campaign in 13 different languages that will reach 99% of U.S. households, Census officials said today at a news conference. In addition to paid media The Census Bureau is issuing information about the effort in 59 languages.

Digital outreach is a major part of the campaign with about 30% of the paid media portion of it allocated to digital/social channels. Between 60% and 65% of self-respondents are expected to complete the census on line this year.



The media buy also includes television, radio, digital, newspapers, magazines, billboards, and events.

VMLY&R has assembled a team of agencies to work on different facets of the campaign. The group includes Culture One World, which is responsible for outreach to the Hispanic/Latino community. About $50 million in paid media has been allocated to reaching that audience.

Other shops on the team include PSB,  media agency Wavemaker, Carol H. Williams Advertising, G +G Advertising, The Kalaimoku Group, TDW+ Co., Reingold, BCW, DCG and Guidehouse. VMLY&R’s Puerto Rico operations and Wavemaker’s San Juan office also have assignments.

Census Bureau officials said at the news briefing that people are generally harder to reach and motivate due to general apathy and a more fragmented landscape. Research has shown that the best motivator to getting people to respond is demonstrating the benefits of the census including access to government services and budget allocations and representation in Congress.

The 2020 Census became mired in controversy when President Trump tried unsuccessfully to force a question on the census about citizenship—a bid that was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court last June.

Trump has made illegal immigration from Mexico and Latin America a centerpiece of his administration—an effort many have deemed racist given numerous disparaging remarks Trump has made about Hispanics. Agency executives involved in the campaign said at the news briefing that the potential citizenship question was taken into consideration when crafting ads, which frequently stress that Census information is not shared and is safe.

Beside Hispanics the multicultural component of the communications campaign program is intended to reach audiences including American Indian and Alaska Natives, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Black/African Americans (Afro-Caribbeans, Sub-Saharan Africans, and Haitians), Hispanics and Puerto Rico residents, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, Middle Eastern/North Africans, Brazilians, Polish, Russians.

There are three main phases to the campaign starting with the awareness phase that kicks off now and which runs through March. That is followed by a “motivation” phase that highlights the ease and benefits of completing the census. People can complete it online, by phone or mail. The third and final phase has been dubbed the “reminder” phase that points out the urgent need to count everyone and that census takers are being deployed to try to collect data from people who have not yet responded.



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