The Ads Are Coming! The Ads Are Coming!

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

A group of us reviewed the television, radio and print advertisements for the 2010 Census that will start running in January. The ad campaign has three phases – an awareness phase (to alert the public that the 2010 Census is coming and the benefits of the count), followed by the motivation phase (to encourage everyone to fill out his or her form and mail it back), and lastly, the cooperation phase (to urge the public to cooperate with census workers should one of them come to their door to ask them the 2010 Census questions).

I am naïve to the advertising world, as were most of the viewers. But the ad campaign was created by professionals, a collection of more than 10 different agencies. It was designed following in depth research and study of the public’s mindset about the 2010 Census. There was also extensive focus group testing of the advertising messages.

It was quite an experience to see so many ads targeted to so many different audiences, one right after another. It reminded me again (as if I need it!) that no other advertising effort in the country attempts to promote a single product to the entire population. We can’t succeed by identifying those most likely to find census participation appealing; we have to make sure we inform everyone.

So, we are advertising in 28 languages, reaching out to over two dozen audiences on TV, radio, in print and online. With many of these audiences, we’ll be the number one advertiser.

I liked the ads, but they are only one part of our integrated communications campaign. We need our nearly 150,000 partner organizations to help raise awareness among their constituents. These grassroots efforts, plus our other activities, need to be coordinated with the paid advertising to really pay off.

Get ready for the ads in the third week of January, but I ask you to spread the word yourself.

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4 Responses to The Ads Are Coming! The Ads Are Coming!

  1. Toni Messina says:

    Hi, Partners! We’re just getting started with the Complete Count Alliance, organized by Mayor Darwin Hindman in Columbia, Mo. This is a more general comment…didn’t know where else to start. Ideas that work are welcome here. We’re about 100,000 pop., home to a university and two colleges, diverse and active. I’m impressed w/ all your targeted messages: do you know if they work?

  2. daniel appleby says:

    the ads I saw were unnecessarily complicated. as a former ad man I can’t help but think the simpler approaches are always more effective.
    below is a script that I wrote that illustrates my point.
    If you were a parent, and you didn’t know how many children you had or how many of them lived in your home, how could you possibly provide for them? That’s all the census bureau is trying to do. We’re tying to determine how many people live and work here in these united states so we can provide for them, for you, in terms of employment, food, shelter, education and health care. It’s as simple as that.

  3. Census Concerns says:

    WHY IS THE US CENSUS BUREAU SPENDING A COUPLE OF MILLION DOLLARS ADVERTISING ON THE SUPERBOWL WITH NO STRATEGIC MESSAGE??? “What is the strategy behind the Census spot for the Superbowl?” (not the campaign strategy, but this particular spot). What do they want to say to 100 million Americans with this spot?
    If, as reported in AdAge, the Bureau is running the CHRISTOPHER GUEST spot then it has no message. It only serves to raise awareness of the Census in an environment that is saturated with awareness messages. What the American people need to know is what the Census means for them, why it is important and what to do with it. Are these messages in the spot? And by the way, why did they need to spend all that money producing 4 or 5 spots with Christopher Guest. Was that strategic? Is all that air time really explaining the US Census to US citizens. The Census Bureau talks a BIG talk about 28 languages and diversity, but when the reporters come out for interviews, they show the Christopher Guest spot with Ed Begley (WHITE BREAD; UPPER WEST SIDE; LIBERAL) that does not reflect the diversity of America and has no strategic message about the Census (is the Census really just a snapshot of America????…please ask all the statisticians about the importance of the DATA and not the snapshot). And they put that spot as THE spot to represent the Census on the Superbowl! The Superbowl is a strategic place to reach a large portion of Americans with a Census message. But not this message. Please ask the Bureau to spend our money more wisely!!!

  4. The essential challenge for the Census is that because it happens only once every ten years, many Americans are unaware of when it happens (in March) and how they participate (by mail). Our own research in late 2009 showed less than 10% of Americans surveyed correctly answered that the 2010 Census occurred in March. The first goal of our promotion efforts is to raise awareness of the when and how the Census works. We have a very limited window of opportunity to achieve our goals Jan – April, and therefore need programming that delivers high ratings. We did not choose the Super Bowl at the expense of some other programming. We went where the audience was to be found, as part of a package with CBS.
    The Super Bowl is the top-rated and most highly anticipated television event in the U.S. An ad running once in the Super Bowl has the potential to reach 45% adults over age 18. For comparison, CSI which is one of the top rated programs on television delivers a 6.6 rating with adults, which is a fraction of the reach of the Super Bowl. A 30 second spot on the top-rated regularly scheduled show in America, American Idol costs $450,000 and has a 9.5 rating, or just 9.5% of adults are watching. The Super Bowl reaches 100 million viewers at a very efficient price compared to other shows.
    The Super Bowl is rare, in that viewers are just as tuned in to see the commercials as the program itself. Commercials that air on the Super Bowl have a multiplier effect. Advertisers are mentioned in multiple news media outlets and viewers will typically look to view them online almost immediately after airing. Therefore, airing once in the Super Bowl creates significant buzz leading to additional viewing potential.
    Our media buy with CBS consists of (1) 30 second ad in the 3rd Quarter. CBS provided added value in the form of (2) more 30 second ads in the pre-game show and an additional (2-3) 12-second vignettes featuring James Brown delivering a message on behalf of the Census. We believe the message delivered by James Brown who is the host of the day, will carry great weight with viewers.
    Finally, Super Bowl advertisers see a significant lift in internet searches which is a great opportunity for Census to drive traffic to 2010census.gov to further educate viewers on the Census.

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