I sat down with Robert Groves, Director, U.S. Census yesterday at the Advertising Research Foundation annual conference right after his keynote presentation.
In his presentation Bob talked about how the 2010 U.S. Census will confirm the United States as a multicultural nation. What are the key takeaways of the 2010 Census for business, media and advertisers who are looking to serve these increasingly diverse and dynamic markets? How does the aging American population mirror and merge with global and multicultural trends?
Some interesting takeaways from our conversation. First, as a nation our rate of growth is slowing down – 9.7% over the last 10 years, from 281 million in 2000 to 309 million in 2010. From 2000 – 2010 we experienced our slowest growth rate since the great depression. The fastest growing population within the US is the hispanic population, dominated by those of Mexican descent. Minority groups are also moving into the suburbs from urban areas, which will change the composition of the suburbs. States with the highest rate of growth are predominantly in the South West, whereas those experiences the slowest growth rates are in the North East.
The Census spent between $300 and $400 million to advertise the Census with the goal of getting more people to fill out the form. 1% increase in the return rate of the Census questionnaire saves $85 million that would otherwise be spent on hiring people to walk around neighborhoods knocking on doors to get people to fill out the form.
Surprisingly, the Census was done under budget. Not your typical government project. The Census returned $1.9 billion to the US Treasury at the end of the project, which was 25% of total budget.
So what does all this mean to advertisers?
First, with regard to targeting mechanisms, the Census will provide yearly updated data through the American Community Survey that will be available to the advertising community. The Census data will allow advertisers to do geographical and ethnic targeting, with up-to-date data, in a way that they’ve never been able to do before. Bob recommends that advertisers study patterns within different geographical areas and use those data to target messages and in-language media buys within areas that have large non-English speaking populations.
There is a large and growing sub-population of people who checked two race boxes (a multi-racial self identity), which means that many people have their feet in two different cultures that may be two different target audiences for a product or service. While still only a single digit percentage of the entire population, this multi-racial sub-population is growing at a rate of 30% – 50% state by state. These people should serve as great translators across cultures for brands that want to get in front of multiple cultures and ethnic groups. They can help advertisers understand whether they need different messages for the different audiences. For example, there are a lot of people who are checking both the “white” and “black” boxes, meaning that on one side of their family they have a lot of white relatives and on the other side they have a lot of black relatives.
For large national marketers, is it now an anachronism to speak about a general market message? Is it no longer valid to speak of a general market? In short, is national advertising dead? Bob believes that language is an issue when trying to reach target markets. The foreign born percentage of the population within the US will be larger than it was in the 1920s. So how do advertisers get to these language and cultural sub-groups effectively and efficiently? When a brand is looking to local market advertising, they should look at the ethnic and language diversity of that geography using the data provided by the US Census.