My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Guest’

MyTwoCensus Editorial: My Mad Men moment…What 2010 Census ads should have said…

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I’m a few years behind the rest of the world as I only recently started watching Mad Men, the hit TV series about the world of advertising. The show got me thinking about many things related to the 2010 Census ad campaign. Rather than advertising with “Portrait of America” themes, Christopher Guest nonsense, and other ads that seem to be unclear, unpointed, and uninteresting flops. Why not go straight to the numbers? The simple ad campaign I would have created for the Census Bureau would have gone as follows:

Cost to mail back your census form: 42 cents.

Cost to send a Census Bureau employee to your house if you fail to return your form: $57.

Amount of federal money at stake if you aren’t counted: $1,333.*

Total amount of available funding that you are community should get its fair share of: $400 BILLION.

2010 Census – Mail it back and Participate.

(Back in February, Census Bureau Communications Director Steve Jost told readers of this blog — see the comments section — that the Census Bureau and Draftfcb were in the process of creating a 2010 Census ad competition for the public to compete in…clearly that never happened!)

*The Census Bureau uses the term $400 billion for the total amount of money at stake. $400 billion divided by 300 milli0n people (an approximation of America’s population) is $1,333 per person. Some estimates determine that it is about $3,000 per person missed. Shelley Lowe of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office said of the per person figure, “We don’t calculate that, but other organizations have attempted to.”

Census humor is so rare, but a new YouTube video strikes gold…

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

The last funny video about the Census was an old Christopher Walken sketch on SNL, but now, for 2010, we have Hitler’s take on the 2010 Census advertising campaign (not offensive and safe to watch at work, don’t worry):

The Final Word on the Super Bowl ad debacle…

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I need not write any more words about the Super Bowl ad. It now has 333,000+ views on YouTube, but at the same time it has been panned time and time again, and perhaps caused 10% of the population to resent the Census Bureau, even if it caused 2% of the population to fill out their 2010 Census forms.

As you will see below, the genius ad agency DraftFCB (who also produced failed and unmemorable Taco Bell and Dockers commercials during the Super Bowl) didn’t even permit the embed codes for the “viral videos” to be shared until this error was pointed out by internet users. One word for these folks: Idiots.

The following words are from The Federal Eye blog by Ed O’Keefe:

Updated 3:53 p.m. ET
Media critics seem to agree: The U.S. Census Bureau should keep to counting people and stay out of the advertising business.

The agency spent $2.5 million on a 30-second ad that aired during the third quarter of Sunday night’s Super Bowl, a price tag also earned them two spots during the pregame show and two on-air mentions by CBS Sports anchor James Brown.

The ad was directed by Christopher Guest and starred Ed Begley Jr. and alums of Guest’s cult classics, “Best in Show,” “For Your Consideration” and “A Mighty Wind.”

The ad is one of a five-part series that the agency hopes will spread virally out from a Facebook fan page and YouTube. (The agency prohibits bloggers and third party sites from copying and pasting embed code of the ads, blaming contractual restrictions — a decision that likely means the agency’s viral efforts will fail. UPDATE: The agency’s YouTube channel now provides the embed code. Was somebody listening?!)

Entertainment Weekly named the spot one of Sunday night’s five worst, stating, “How weird to hire all those funny character actors, then accidentally air an unfinished version of a commercial that left us all wondering what the frak we just watched!”

The ad also ranked poorly in USA Today’s annual Super Bowl ad viewer survey, ranking towards the bottom between a CareerBuilder.com ad and one for the new Wolfman movie. (But it did beat the controversial ad starring Tim Tebow.)

Advertisers are often willing to fork over millions of dollars for a Super Bowl spot in hopes of free day-after buzz. So perhaps most insulting of all, some ad critics completely ignored the Census spot. Slate’s Seth Stevenson didn’t mention it in his review of an “uninspiring slate” of commercial offerings, and The Post’s television critic Tom Shales also ignored the ad (Shales concluded that the David Letterman-Oprah Winfrey-Jay Leno “Late Show” promo was the night’s best — and The Eye agrees).

The conservative editorial board at the New Hampshire Union-Leader seized on the Census ad’s price tag, calling it a “Super blunder” and lamenting that the spot cost only 1.9 percent of the Census Bureau’s total advertising budget.

The editors echoed concerns raised last week by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). Both lawmakers have sought justifications for the big purchase.

“There has been a great deal of buzz about the Census ads this week which is raising awareness at just the right time,” said Census Bureau spokesman Steven Jost.

“No single ad carries the whole burden of this massive outreach and education effort,” he said. “Our goal now is to raise awareness that the Census is coming in March. Then we will shift to more direct messaging that your Census form will be arriving by mail and inspiring folks to ‘mail it back.’”

Officials have also justified the costs by noting that any publicity about the 2010 Census — good or bad — should help save taxpayer money in the long run. A higher census response rate cuts the need for temporary workers to conduct expensive follow up interviews, the agency said.

“If 1% of folks watching #SB44 [Super Bowl 44] change mind and mail back #2010Census form, taxpayers save $25 million in follow up costs,” the bureau Tweeted on Sunday night.

The Scope Of An Advertising/Marketing Flop…

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The Nielsen Ratings are crap. Seriously. These ratings are the results of an antiquated system that relies on statistics from 5,000 Americans to represent more than 300,000,000 Americans. However, YouTube has provided many, many, statistics for the common man (not just the stat-heads over at Census Bureau’s HQ in Suitland, Maryland). So, let us delve into the US Census Bureau’s YouTube channel to see just how few people have watched the ads that have been created for the 2010 Census:

Thus far, the Census Bureau has posted 63 YouTube videos for the 2010 Census. The first video (the boringly iconic “Portrait of America” clip) was posted 10 months ago and the most recent addition (a hip-hop music video geared toward young urbanites)  was posted two days ago. The Portrait of America video has just over 6,500 hits…which would sound pretty pathetic for a 10 month campaign if only it wasn’t revealed that the other six videos posted 10 months ago each received between 347 and 1,305 hits. In the series of videos posted 6 months ago, the most widely-watched video, about the address-canvassing operations, has been viewed a measly 1,083 times. (This means that only a tiny fraction of the workers involved in this process even watched the video…)

Sadly, Census Director Robert M. Groves has not become the YouTube phenom he wished to be, as his four-part panel discussion and swearing in ceremony clips received only 264, 124, 92, 120, and 285 views respectively (over the course of 6 months!!!). If Dr. Groves were trying to make it on network TV, he would have been canned lightyears before Conan…

And most pathetic are the efforts of the Census Bureau to reach out to minority communities…Video testimonials by members of minority communities that were posted 5 months ago have received between 33 and 258 views…and the majority of these videos have been viewed less than 100 times each! Even if the Census Bureau’s own employees who are representing the minority groups (partnership specialists) had viewed their own videos, there should be more views than what is represented on YouTube!

Final Analysis from an untrained marketing expert: As of February 8, 2010, this ad campaign is a colossal failure!

Let us know your thoughts on the Census Bureau’s Super Bowl ads…

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Please comment here and enjoy the game!

Michelle Malkin Hearts Us..And Makes Some Valid Points

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Though we’re a staunchly non-partisan media outlet, yesterday we became a darling of the right, as Michelle Malkin sung our praises. Perhaps the best point in her article is that Christopher Guest’s “viral” video has fewer than 7,000 hits on YouTube, but maybe that will soon change with all of this (ahem, negative) exposure:

The Super-Sized Census Boondoggle

By Michelle Malkin  •  February 5, 2010 10:19 AM

My column looks at the bloated Census p.r. and education budget. GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson is asking questions. As well he should. History shows that the more the Census spends on advertising, the lower the response rate is. Best watchdog site for all the latest Census shenanigans: My Two Census.

***

The Super-Sized Census Boondoggle
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2010

If only the federal government were as responsible with our money as Pepsi is with theirs. The soda giant has been in the Super Bowl ad business for more than two decades. But this year, Pepsi determined it was economically unwise to pay $3 million for a 30-second spot. So, who’s foolish enough to pay for Super Bowl gold-plated airtime? You and me and Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Census Bureau will squander $2.5 million on a half-minute Super Bowl ad starring D-list celebrity Ed Begley, Jr., plus two pre-game blurbs and 12-second “vignettes” featuring Super Bowl anchor James Brown. It’s a drop in the Census boondoggle bucket (otherwise known as the tax-subsidized National Democrat Future Voter Outreach Drive). The Obama White House has allocated a total of $340 million on an “unprecedented” promotional blitz for the 2010 Census. That’s on top of $1 billion in stimulus money siphoned off for increased Census “public outreach” and staffing. In all, the Census will triple its total budget from 2000 to $15 billion.

Ads pimping the Census have already appeared during the Golden Globe awards and will broadcast during the Daytona 500 and NCAA Final Four championships. Some $80 million will be poured into multi-lingual ads in 28 languages from Arabic to Yiddish. Racial and ethnic groups have been squabbling over their share of the pie.

The U.S. census is a decennial census mandated by our constitution. Should Americans know about it? Sure. Should the p.r. budget become a bottomless slush fund in recessionary times? Surely not.

Yet, no matter how you translate it, the Census commercials to date have been an Ishtar-style flop. Global ad agency Draftfcb, based in (Obama’s hometown) Chicago and New York, nabbed a $200 million, four-year contract to oversee the Census Bureau’s direct marketing, online, and offline general market media strategies. The agency hired comedian Christopher Guest to produce “viral” spots. One of the supposedly “humor-driven” videos produced by Guest and commissioned by Draftfcb was uploaded to YouTube a few weeks ago. It has racked up a measly 6,880 views.

“For a once-a-decade project involving every living American, that’s a pretty crummy return on investment,” jeered AdFreak.com’s David Griner. “The video seems to be hampered by the same problem that plagues all campaigns meant to ‘go viral.—i.e., it’s simply not that funny…[T]he joke is a chuckler at best, and dragged out to three minutes, that chuckle gets spread pretty thin.” According to independent Census watchdog Stephen Morse, the feds conducted a total of 115 focus groups in 37 markets across the country before settling on the dud of an ad.

That’s a hell of a lot of focus-grouping to get people to pay a little extra attention to government head-count questionnaires that will be coming straight to their mailboxes, anyway.

Taxpayers are also footing the bill for the Mother of all Government Junkets – a three-month, $15 million road trip by lucky-ducky Census Bureau flacks traveling in 13 buses and cargo vans with trailers. They’ll be partying in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and at parades across the country. In case you were wondering about the anticipated Census Road Show carbon footprint, it’s an estimated 223 metric tons.

But not to worry: The eco-racketeers of an Al Gore-endorsed carbon offset firm called “Carbonfund.org” have become official government “partners” with the Census to offset all the vehicle emissions – and surf off the free publicity to garner more shady business.

As if overpriced TV ads, online videos no one watches, and indulgent, cross-country caravans weren’t enough, the Census Bureau is also enlisting 56 million schoolchildren to pester their parents and act as junior government enumerators. Educrats are spending several billions more on math and social studies lessons peddling the Census. Overzealous Census partners such as the National Association of Latino Elected Officials have distributed recruitment propaganda urging constituents to participate because “Joseph and Mary participated in the Census.” Goodness knows what kind of fear-mongering curricula the kids are being served in the name of counting heads – and shaping the electoral landscape.

“When times are tough, you tighten your belts,” President Obana lectured us. “You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas.” Coincidentally, the Census Road Tour junketeers just wrapped up a visit in Vegas. Next stop? You guessed it: The Super Bowl in Miami. Taxpayers should start crying foul.

The Super Bowl Ad: The Census Bureau Responds To MyTwoCensus Questions

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

MyTwoCensus.com has received a fair share of e-mails from Americans who are all asking the same question: Why did the Census Bureau choose to purchase a multimillion dollar Super Bowl advertisement? Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner has responded to this and other related questions below:

Questions from Stephen Robert Morse, Founder/Editor of MyTwoCensus.com: Whose idea was it to air an ad for the Census Bureau during the Super Bowl? Who chose Christopher Guest as the director of the ad? Who chose which specific ad or ads will run? Which ad or ads will run? Were there ever focus groups to see how effective the ads were? If so, where and when did these focus groups take place? What were the results of these studies?

Answers from Stephen Buckner, Assistant Division Chief, Decennial Programs, Public Information Office:

The essential challenge for the Census is that because it happens only once
every ten years, many U.S. residents are unaware of when it happens (in
March) and how they participate (by mail).  Our own research in late 2009
showed less than 10% of Americans surveyed correctly answered that the 2010
Census occurred in March.  

The first goal of our promotion efforts is to
raise awareness of the when and how the Census works.  We have a very
limited window of opportunity to achieve our goals Jan – April, and
therefore need programming that delivers high ratings.   The 2000 Census
paid advertising campaign also had a Super Bowl ad for just this reason.

The Super Bowl is the top-rated and most highly anticipated television
event in the U.S.  An ad running once in the Super Bowl has the potential
to reach 45% adults over age 18.  For comparison, CSI which is one of the
top rated programs on television delivers a 6.6 rating with adults, which
is a fraction of the reach of the Super Bowl.   A 30 second spot on the
top-rated regularly scheduled show in America, American Idol costs $450,000
and has a 9.5 rating, or just 9.5% of adults are watching.   The Super Bowl
reaches 100 million viewers at a very efficient price compared to other
shows.

 The Super Bowl is rare, in that viewers are just as tuned in to see the
commercials as the program itself.  Commercials that air on the Super Bowl
have a multiplier effect.  Advertisers are mentioned in multiple news media
outlets and viewers will typically look to view them online almost
immediately after airing.  Therefore, airing once in the Super Bowl creates
significant buzz leading to additional viewing potential.

Our media buy with CBS consists of (1) 30 second ad in the 3rd Quarter.
CBS provided added value in the form of (2) more 30 second ads in the
pre-game show and an additional (2-3) 12-second vignettes featuring James
Brown delivering a message on behalf of the Census.  We believe the message
delivered by James Brown who is the host of the day, will carry great
weight with viewers.

We did not choose the Super Bowl itself for an ad, or at the expense of
some other programming.  We went where the audience was to be found, and
CBS put the Super Bowl into their proposal for all Census ad dollars, along
with the NCAA finals and other high profile programming.  NBC similarly
offered us special programming for advertising during the Olympics.

We did conduct focus groups and other research for all of our paid
advertising concepts in 2009, including the concept of a “Snap Shot of 300
million Americans” which became the ads being directed by Christopher
Guest.  They tested very positively.  We conducted a total of 115 focus
groups in 37 markets cities across the United States for all our
advertising, television, radio, print, digital and out door.

The first ad in the series is currently airing and will also air during the
Super Bowl pre-game. A new will air during the game, but if we told you
what it was all about, it would spoil all the suspense.  While we reply on
the professional expertise and advice of our expert advertising
contractors, the Census Bureau is responsible for these ads and their
placement.

Finally, Super Bowl advertisers see a significant lift in internet searches
which is a great opportunity for Census to drive traffic to 2010census.gov
to further educate viewers on the Census.

Question to our readers…

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Do you think it is a good use of money for the Census Bureau to spend a few million $$ on a Super Bowl advertisement? (please comment below!)