US Census 2020

CLIENT: U.S. Census Bureau



Effie Awards, United States 2021: GOLD, Government & Public Service

4A’s Jay Chiat Awards: BRONZE, National Strategy

ARF David Ogilvy Awards 2021: Data Innovation; Social Responsibility; Government, Public Service, and Nonprofit; Grand Ogilvy



How do you motivate the entire country? Especially when that country is the United States in 2020…

In 2020, the Census Bureau unveiled its biggest change in forty years — the Internet. For the first time ever, everyone could respond by mail, by phone, or online. That meant driving tens of millions of households to new ways of responding.

But, while it was going to be easier than ever to respond, the government faced an uphill battle in terms of knowledge of the census and trust in the Census Bureau – and add to that the “2020” of it all.



Strong Foundation of Research
Yes, the target was everyone in the United States. But VMLY&R couldn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.

So, they traveled the country: conducting hundreds of focus groups in more than a dozen languages and countless community interviews in addition to a nationwide survey mailed out to 50,000 households in both English and Spanish.

Going big to show that the U.S. Census belongs to everyone
The campaign launched websites, social media content, public and virtual events, public service announcements, traditional and new media assets, and earned media pitching. They produced over 5,000 assets that they distributed to mass, direct, and cultural targeted media outlets and communication channels.



In the end, not even 2020 could get in the way of making everyone count

  • Despite unprecedented social unrest and natural disasters, the 2020 Census received 99 million self-responses—exceeding both the 2020 self-response goal and the final count achieved in the 2010 Census.
  • Of those, over 79 million responded by internet, far out-weighing phone and mail responses, greatly bolstering the count’s overall efficiency.
  • In the end, 99.98% of U.S. Households were counted, demonstrating the dogged effectiveness of the campaign in driving the public’s cooperation with the Census Bureau.

They kept the Census on people’s radar:

  • Awareness rates rose among all ages, races, ethnicities, and with both English and Spanish speakers. During the crucial first weeks of the campaign’s most active phase, in fact, a whopping 93% of U.S. adults reported hearing about the 2020 Census.


of U.S. households were counted