NYTimes ad critic analyzes 2010 Census ad campaign
Below is Stuart Elliot’s commentary as he answers readers’ questions about 2010 Census ads. Will the Census Bureau and Draftfcb threaten to take away the New York Times’ contract because Stuart was somewhat critical of the ad campaign?
Just this morning, as I was reading NYTimes.com, I was struck by the short films that the U.S. Census is running to help persuade people to return their census forms.
Usually I ignore any and all advertisements online, but I found these fascinating because they present people who have reasons (good or less good) for mistrusting the government as encouraging citizens to participate. Who is responsible for the films?
A: (Stuart Elliott)
The films are part of a Web series, called Portrait of America, which features “real people expressing their reservations about participating in the Census and then overcoming them once they examine the form,” says Wally Petersen, a spokesman for DraftFCB in Chicago, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.
The DraftFCB New York office created the Web series in its role as the lead agency for the Census campaign. “More than a dozen agencies produced more than 400 pieces of marketing communications” to encourage participating in the Census, he writes in an e-mail message, adding that the work is “targeting multiple audiences” in terms of races and ethnicities and appears in 28 languages.
Something about those ubiquitous U.S. Census television ads has me scratching my head: the closing call to action. On screen invariably is the phrase “Census 2010” while the voice-over announcer invariably says “2010 Census.”
This strikes me as a weird inconsistency, not what one usually sees in a presumably well-considered, well-heeled campaign. In other words, “Huh?” What can you find out?
A: (Stuart Elliott)
Back we go, dear reader, to Mr. Petersen, who offers this reply in another e-mail message: “The formal name, ‘United States Census 2010,’ is a mouthful and sounds too bureaucratic. Lots of brands have nicknames. Look at Mickey D’s, for McDonald’s; B.K., for Burger King; and the Shack, for Radio Shack.”
“Saying ‘2010 Census’ simply functions as a short and memorable nickname,” Mr. Petersen concludes.