Y&R to lead $100 mil Census push

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The U.S. Census Bureau, shifting from its historical use of pro bono advertising, has awarded its $100 million, four-year Census 2000 account to Young & Rubicam, New York, and two independent, multicultural agencies.

Y&R will lead the account, coordinating the joint effort, with Y&R Advertising handling general-market advertising. Y&R subsidiaries Bravo Group and Mosaica will handle Hispanic and Asian-American advertising, respectively.

J. Curtis & Co., Montclair, N.J., will handle the African-American market, while Gray & Gray, Albuquerque, N.M., will focus on Native Americans.

Terry Dukes, Y&R managing director on the account, said the agencies will be organized in functional teams under Y&R's leadership. Ms. Dukes cited media staffers from each agency working together under a Y&R media team leader as an example of the integration.

"It's not a bunch of separate agencies all going off and doing their own work," she said.

The agencies will handle the account from 1998 to 2001, with the bulk of the proposed budget being spent in 1999 and 2000. The $100 million figure is a Census Bureau proposal pending congressional approval.

The average cost for a household that returns the form as requested is $2, the Census Bureau said. But the cost skyrockets to $12 when census takers have to call or visit the home. For the most difficult to reach, the cost can reach $36 per questionnaire.

In 1980, 75% mailed in the response as requested, but in 1990, the percentage slipped to 65%. Census officials fear a further slip to 55% in 2000.

The Census Bureau cited poor response to the 1990 pro bono campaign as a factor in switching to paid advertising for the upcoming head count. Census officials said TV spots in previous pro bono efforts ran in poor time slots and had limited prime-time coverage.

Officials said these limited messages contributed to undercounting, especially among certain groups such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

"The biggest advantage that paid advertising gives us over pro bono work is our ability to control not only the message but also the audience being targeted," said Ken Meyer, chief of the Census 2000 public information office. "We were gratified that all the agencies who made proposals clearly understood our problem to get to everyone in the United States."

Y&R beat out contenders including Grey Advertising and Bates USA, both New York, and a consortium led by Western International Media, Los Angeles.

"The one we chose we felt stood out for excellent creative, aggressive media buying plan and sub-plan on return of investment .|.|. as well as their previous success with government contracts," Mr. Meyer said.

Y&R handles advertising for the U.S. Army and the U.S. Postal Service.

The Census Bureau is the second big win for Y&R in the past two months; the agency won Citibank's $500 million consolidated global account in August.

The Census Bureau will use a variety of integrated marketing efforts, with direct mail backing up TV, radio, print and outdoor advertising. The new campaign will be launched next year in select markets.

Copyright October 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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