Tuesday, January 05, 2010

$340 million = Old School

This article by Haya El Nasser in yesterday's USA Today presents a remarkable view of the old way of marketing and publicity. The Bureau of the Census is going to spend $340 million on a promotional blitz to "promote the benefits of responding to the 10-question Census."

Beyond a 46-foot trailer and 12 13-foot trailers traveling 150,000 miles, $140 million will be spent on TV, radio, print, and outdoor advertising; and there is another $80 million on ads for racial, ethnic, and non-English speakers in 28 languages.

Promoting the census is very important. After all, it is the basis for representation in Congress and other governmental functions. We certainly want full participation.

But this is so old school.

There is not a single mention in this story about using social media for this purpose. So I looked further. I found this e-newsletter for Census partners and also this toolkit, one of several available to organizations that might want to promote the Census. Each toolkit has common elements, like letters, announcements, brochures, calendars, posters, certificates.

Still pretty old school.

Contrast this with the power of the networked intelligence approach discussed below in two posts. Imagine if the Census Bureau engaged in this kind of crowdsourcing to invent ways to reach out to lots of difference segments of the population. And used the reach of Facebook and Twitter and other sites to carry the message. For a lot less money.

The Obama administration virtually invented social-media-based campaigning during the last election. The company that did a lot of that work has since branched out into lots of other exposure and advocacy functions. Maybe they would offer pro bono service to the government to help get people counted. Or even if they charged for it, I bet they could do it for a lot less than $340 million.


Anonymous said...

I have no quibble with your financial objections, but my understanding is that the people at risk not to be counted are the people who are as far from a computer, much less FB and Twitter, as we are from Mars. I understand that you are saying social media should be used to rally the troops to better reach these people, but I think the old ways are going to be hard to avoid, just as campaigning still involves a lot of knocking on doors.
What interests me is how policitized even counting our population has become, with various groups seeking to inflate their numbers and shrink others for political/financial gain. Is even counting live bodies a political act these days?


Unknown said...

I agree with everything you say here except for the use of the phrase "old school". The phrase includes an element of respect and reverence, which I don't think applies to the government's awkward and dated methods in this case.