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U.S. Census Bureau Unveils 2020 Census Ads

Communications effort employs multi-language ads, partnerships and trusted voices.

Release Number CB20-CN.04
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JAN. 14, 2020 — The U.S. Census Bureau today shared highlights of a $500 million public education and outreach campaign featuring more than 1,000 ads designed to reach 99% of all U.S. households and communicate the importance of responding to the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau conducted extensive research to create the “Shape your Future. Start here.” campaign to show that responding to the census is easy, safe and important.

"The 2020 Census is your census, and its success depends on you. It’s a once-in-a-decade chance to inform how billions of dollars in funding are allocated for critical public services like hospitals and health care clinics, schools and education programs, roads and bridges, and emergency response for the next 10 years," explained Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham. "Through advertising, public events, partnerships and digital and traditional media, we are embarking on a nationwide effort to let everyone in the country know about the upcoming 2020 Census and encourage them to respond online, by phone or by mail. And we are extremely committed to reaching those people who are historically undercounted. Today we will demonstrate how the “Shape your Future. Start here.” campaign will do just that."

At a news conference in Washington, D.C., Census Bureau officials provided an overview of the communications effort and previewed ads that are part of the paid media campaign. Ads reaching multicultural and historically undercounted audiences began airing today while ads for general audiences will begin running in mid-February. Beginning in mid-March, households can respond to the census online, by phone or by mail.

The communications campaign includes television and radio commercials, digital, social media and print advertising and messaging on billboards and at bus stops. The massive public education effort encourages participation among multicultural and hard-to-count populations with ads in English and 12 other languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

The Census Bureau and VMLY&R (Team Y&R) — the advertising and communications team of 13 agencies that has expertise with multicultural and historically undercounted groups — tested the ads in multiple languages and in diverse focus groups across the country. Team Y&R includes PSB, Wavemaker, Carol H. Williams AdvertisingCulture ONE WorldG+G AdvertisingThe Kalaimoku GroupTDW+Co.VMLY&R Puerto Rico, Wavemaker Puerto Rico, ReingoldBCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), DCG, and Guidehouse.

Examples of 2020 Census advertising can be seen at https://2020census.gov/en/news-events/press-kits/2020-census-integrated-communications-campaign.html.

“In March, most households will be invited to respond to the 2020 Census. Inviting the nation to respond is a challenge and a big change from previous decades,” said Maria Olmedo-Malagon, program manager for the 2020 Census Communication Campaign. “Communication is key to educating people so they know why it’s important and how to respond. While people can now respond online, it is important to note that people can respond online or by phone in 13 languages or via the traditional paper questionnaire.”

Lessons learned from prior decades combined with extensive research on the rapidly changing media landscape will allow the Census Bureau to reach more people than ever before. During the response phases of the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will continuously monitor response rates and make timely decisions to refocus the communications efforts where needed.

“The work, research and dedication that has gone into this campaign is unmatched to that of any previous censuses,” said Kendall Johnson, executive director of the communications contract, U.S. Census Bureau. “Our outreach is multifaceted with a heavy focus on increasing response among groups that are historically undercounted. And it’s based on the most extensive research ever conducted to understand both what motivates people to respond to the census and what prevents them from responding.”

This is the third decennial census to include a dedicated advertising and communications operation designed to encourage the public to respond on their own. Higher self-response rates increase the accuracy of census statistics and ­save taxpayer money by significantly lowering the follow-up costs of sending census takers to households that have not responded.

The 2020 Census Paid Media Campaign will occur in three phases:

  1. Awareness/Education Phase (Jan. 14 – March 12): Builds immediate awareness and provides educational information about the 2020 Census.
  2. Motivation/Participation Phase (March 13 – May 20): Inspires and motivates the public to complete the 2020 Census questionnaire online, by phone or by mail.
  3. Reminder/Nonresponse Follow Up (May 13 – June 28): Continues to remind people to respond to the 2020 Census and to support census takers as they go door-to-door to count households that have not yet responded.

The 2020 Census will officially begin January 21, in Toksook Bay, Alaska, a remote fishing village located on the Bering Sea. Director Dillingham will be on hand to count the first person. Also known as the “first enumeration,” local census takers get a head start in rural Alaska when the ground is frozen, allowing for easier access to remote villages. Advertising in remote Alaska began in mid-December to provide awareness that census takers will soon visit villages to count the people who live there.

The event also highlighted an extensive nationwide push to recruit part-time census takers for the 2020 Census.

“In order to count every person in the United States, we need to build the team to help with the count. This is a national census and we need people in every state and community to make it a successful one,” Dillingham said. “Not only is this great work, but it’s a chance for people to be a part of our nation’s history.”

For information about job opportunities, visit 2020Census.gov/jobs.

The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years. The 2020 Census will count everyone who lives in the U.S. as of April 1, 2020 (Census Day). Census statistics are used to determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and to inform how billions of dollars in federal funds will be allocated by state, local, and federal lawmakers every year for the next 10 years. Beginning in mid-March, households can respond online, by phone or by mail.

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