FIRST PAID ADS TOUT CENSUS AS AN OPPORTUNITY: $102.6 MIL EFFORT SELLS NATIONAL HEAD COUNT AS WAY TO BE HEARD

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The U.S. Census Bureau breaks its first-ever paid advertising this week -- magazine ads that proclaim the 2000 census an opportunity to be heard.

The initial ad in the massive $102.8 million campaign is aimed at African-Americans and suggests that filling out the census form next April can aid political power. The ad from Chisholm-Mingo Group, New York, is in November issues of Ebony and Essence.

"Census 2000 is an opportunity to help our community grow," the ad reads. "The information gathered . . . can help determine where job training centers, schools, daycare centers and healthcare facilities are needed."

The "opportunity" theme also will be carried in ads for other racial and ethnic groups under a strategy developed by lead agency Y&R Advertising, New York, which has partnered with a number of agencies in handling the census work. They include G&G Advertising, Albuquerque, N.M.; and Chisholm-Mingo, Kang & Lee and Y&R's own Bravo Group, all New York.

BUILT ON ONE STRATEGY

"It reflects the strategy that every agency built its creative on," said Terry Dukes, Y&R's exec VP-account managing director.

As reported earlier, the Census Bureau has budgeted for $70 million in spending from mid-January through mid-April; ads use the tagline "Census 2000: This is our future. Don't leave it blank."

"The strategy is about what is in it for me," added Mr. Dukes. "What are the benefits that can accrue to me and what are the opportunities I might miss."

Minority-directed ads are part of a plan to better target messages to populations traditionally most difficult to count. The Census Bureau is planning broadcast and print ads in nearly a dozen languages, aimed at new U.S. residents and those who don't usually speak English.

EASING FEARS

The first "informational" advertising due to break on TV in early November will explain the census. Some of the ads will try to make it clear that the information being gathered will not go to the Internal Revenue Service or the Immigration & Naturalization Service.

These "don't be afraid to file" ads address the fears of people concerned about revealing the number of residents in a household.

The more general push will begin in mid-January, aimed at getting people to fill out their forms. A final wrap-up effort will run in April and May, targeting those who have not complied with the earlier requests.

Traditionally, the Census Bureau has relied on public service advertising. The decision to switch to paid ads this time around came as officials saw their prospects for free PSA time decreasing and a need to tailor ads to specific populations increasing.

They hope the $100 million expenditure will prove a cheap way of raising response rates, thus reducing some of the need to send out "enumerators" to

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