U.S. Census Bureau - Preproduction Location

February 07, 2010 | :30

It may be surprising that the U.S. government turns up in the Super Bowl more than a few times over the years, most often with the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s ads of the late 90’s and 2000’s. But the feds have at least as much justification to spend big on TV’s biggest night when they are trying to reach literally everyone in the U.S., as was the case with the Census Bureau in 2000 ("Schools") and again in 2010.

That’s pretty much the gag, in fact, in “Preproduction/Location,” which imagines a production meeting for the entire U.S. census. And it’s part of a four-month ad campaign that the government pegged at $133 million, which makes a few million dollars on 30 seconds seem more reasonable than it might.Then again, the Census Bureau came under some criticism for the size of the overall campaign, but Census Bureau Director Robert Groves argued that for every 1% of the population persuaded to return the forms by mail, the Census saved $85 million it would have spent sending workers door-to-door.

The ad, by Interpublic’s DraftFCB, was directed by movie actor and director Christopher Guest (“Best in Show,” “Spinal Tap”), and is perhaps the driest Super Bowl commercial in history. The following year, Guest would direct Groupon's Super Bowl ad "Tibet," another spot that required a particular sense of humor. 

"Prepoduction/Location" was part of a five-ad series, which may have diminished its impact among viewers who hadn’t seen earlier installments.

Art Director: Noah Davis. Copywriter: Rob Rooney. Production Company: Go Film. The spot stars Ed Begley Jr. and Ed Balaban among others.

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  • BrandU.S. Census Bureau - Preproduction Location
  • Year2010
  • AgencyDraftFCB
  • Superbowl #XLIV
  • Quarter airedQ3