The 2010 Census: New Demographics, New Approach

Inclusive Campaign Meant Breaking Through Barriers

By Published on .

Mostapha Saout
Mostapha Saout
Allied Media Corp. just launched a national advertising campaign with the U.S. Census Bureau and our partner agencies. This was the largest ethnic advertising campaign in U.S. history and a milestone for the advertising industry. We worked with many different ethnic groups, media outlets, community leaders and organizations to promote the 2010 Census outreach efforts. Let me tell you how we did it.

We made a break from the mainstream by creating a fully integrated campaign with a relevant strategy for each ethnic group. Each group's cultural preferences -- based on heritage, geographic location, and individual American experience -- played a part in our strategy. Many of these groups distrust government having experienced a heightened tension in their communities in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Others come from countries with governments that restricted personal freedoms, so they remain afraid to share personal information with any government.

A high number of ethnic groups reported to us that they felt excluded from the American political process. Yet time and again, we found folks who held a strong sense of civic duty -- people who sought the American dream, but were alienated from the mainstream media. We discovered that an effective outreach campaign would mean communicating an opportunity to them that would fulfill their needs. From the very beginning, we wanted to tell these Americans about the safety and security, as well as the benefit of participating in the 2010 Census.

We went into this campaign understanding much of this sentiment. After all, we come from many of these communities and we understand that mainstream media goes unnoticed. But we had our work cut out for us, since these groups are so diverse and have so many specific challenges, including linguistic isolation, lack of awareness and inter-group struggles. Many individuals from these enclaves don't speak English very well or at all. And most of the time, they rely on in-language media as their sole source of information.

Here's one specific example: For years, a common expression among Russian émigrés in Brighton Beach has been, "We don't go to America." The Russian-Americans in this part of New York live in an ethnic enclave, which they call "little Odessa," where they have little interaction with English speakers. Obviously, this lack of awareness makes it extremely difficult for such individuals and groups to receive mainstream messages, so we reached out to these communities in their own native languages. We reached out to their media outlets.

I want you to know that differences do exist in all of these groups. It's not one size fits all. The groups interact in different ways based on religion, dialect or age. We found ourselves deeply involved in the intricacies of specific neighborhoods. We interacted with individuals across income levels -- from the wealthy homeowner to the community leader concerned with the fears of undocumented immigrants.

I'm proud. Our team worked on this historic campaign with the support of our media relationships, partnerships with local community leaders and organizations around the country, and with the help of local Census Bureau representatives. I think American demographics will continue to shift and our ethnic communities will grow in size, income level and buying power. We believe that in just the same way the 2000 Census gave greater importance to Hispanic Americans, the 2010 Census will result in a more accurate count to many other minorities. Don't count us out.

Mostapha Saout is founder and president of Allied Media Corp.
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