CENSUS SEEKS AD AGENCY INPUT ON PAID CAMPAIGN: $100 MIL EFFORT FOR 2000 STRESSES NAT'L STRATEGY, LOCAL FLEXIBILITY

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The U.S. Census Bureau is seeking agency feedback by Jan. 10 on its proposed strategy to bolster general and minority response to its census in 2000 via a $100 million ad and direct marketing campaign.

The census' plans to use paid advertising to increase consumer response, which has lagged in recent surveys, have been in the works since earlier this year (AA, Aug. 12). In previous census periods, the bureau used public service announcements.

BUREAU'S CONCERNS

The request for input asks agencies to address these bureau concerns: how to ensure a national strategy with local flexibility; how to integrate an ad campaign with other communications; what types and levels of media can be used; what performance levels should be included in the evaluation process; and how performance incentives could be built into the final contract.

Maximizing the return rate helps save the bureau money. The cost to process mailed surveys is about $2 apiece. But if census reps travel to homes to gather data, the price jumps to as much as $36.

The review schedule indicates the bureau won't issue request proposals until March, with proposal reviews taking place in April and May, pitches during June, and a contract awarded in August.

150 SHOPS CONTACTED

Kenneth Meyer, the bureau's special assistant to the assistant director for communications, said more than 150 agencies and marketing companies have called regarding the work statement.

The strategy put forth by the bureau involves direct mail, media advertising, community outreach, public relations and special events, as well as integrating census questionnaires with campaign themes.

The general ad assignment calls for national reach and regional support through TV and other media. Another important agency capability: minority expertise. According to the Census Bureau's statement of work: "Some [minority] groups are more likely to be missed than others.

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