More than just the start of a new decade, 2020 is set to be a big year. The nation, at the moment, is largely focused and quite often divided on major concerns such as the economy, world relations, and, of course, the upcoming presidential election. These issues impact our country today and will continue to for the next four-plus years. But when we look beyond politics, 2020 also includes the constitution-mandated, decennial Census — a survey of the population conducted every 10 years — that plays an integral role in how federal funds are distributed to localities for the following decade.
In the context of the lasting effects of 2020 events, Census results impact the U.S. for the next 2.5 presidential terms. Census data helps determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as how voting districts are defined. And, if the 2020 count does not accurately reflect U.S. residents, local governments stand to lose an average of $14,000 per person in funding over the next decade.
This 2020 Census also brings with it the incorporation of more technology and a deployment plan that leans into more modern targeting initiatives; i.e., there is ample opportunity to achieve a more accurate count, but also a host of issues that could result in non-response.
Knowing what is at stake, the federal government, states, and local municipalities have allocated part of their budgets for paid media, which, nationally, will include digital and social media for the first time. Residents will be encouraged to participate online, versus mailing in forms or taking them to local census offices, as they have in the past.
While the goal of the census is to get an accurate count of everyone living in the United States, this year the government's outreach efforts will focus heavily on hard-to-count (HTC) communities. Targeting HTC audiences, the new online process, and the addition of digital marketing and social media, represent a unique opportunity for out-of-home (OOH) media.
With OOH, local municipalities can connect with residents in-language and with physical canvases that they are sure to pass by on their daily journeys. Capturing these communities at all stages of the Census, from driving awareness and motivation, to reminding residents to participate through the end of 2020, will be critical in ensuring an accurate count and high response rate in communities that need federal funding the most.
In fact, OOH is the most trusted media format for millennial and Gen Z populations, two groups that may fall into HTC communities, as urban and transient populations that are difficult to connect with via mail and other traditional media formats. Building this trust will be critical during the awareness and motivation stages (January through May) of the U.S. Census Bureau's campaign.
From priming digital and social behaviors and complementing their role in the media mix, to helping people trust the Census, to localizing messages to mirror each community's DNA, and to being with people as they go about their lives as a physical reminder to take action and be counted, OOH can drive awareness of the Census and motivate audiences to participate in a way no other media format can.
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