United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Statistical Division

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1 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Statistical Division CONFERENCE OF EUROPEAN STATISTICIANS Workshop on Statistical Data Collection: Riding the Data Deluge 29 April 1 May, Washington D.C., United States of America WP.6 29 April Census Test Stephen Buckner (U.S. Census Bureau) Abstract and Paper As the U.S. Census Bureau gears up for the next census in 2020, the agency conducts many tests to assess preparations. In 2015, the agency has test censuses in Savannah, Georgia and Maricopa County, Arizona. The census is vital to making informed decisions about the nation s infrastructure. But counting every resident of the United States comes with an enormous price tag. By far, the most costly components of the decennial enumeration are in-person data collection and follow-up by phone when residents do not complete and submit their census forms. To determine whether digital advertising and microtargeted digital advertising will help increase resident participation in the early stages of a census count, the U.S. Census Bureau is conducting a test in the Savannah, Georgia media market, integrating new media strategies with traditional communications tactics. The Census Bureau is segmenting the market into five test panels, serving varying mixes of digital media in those panels and matching relevant advertisements with hard-to-reach audiences. The resulting findings will inform policy decisions for increasing census response rates, including whether to use digital advertising to promote the census in 2020 and beyond.

2 UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON STATISTICS Session: Riding the Wave of the Data Deluge: Linking Data Collection and Communication Abstract 2015 Census Test Stephen L. Buckner U.S. Census Bureau April 2015 As the U.S. Census Bureau gears up for the next census in 2020, the agency conducts many tests to assess preparations. In 2015, the agency has test censuses in Savannah, Georgia and Maricopa County, Arizona. The census is vital to making informed decisions about the nation s infrastructure. But counting every resident of the United States comes with an enormous price tag. By far, the most costly components of the decennial enumeration are in person data collection and follow up when residents do not complete and submit their census forms. To determine whether digital advertising and microtargeted digital advertising will help increase participation in the early stages of a census count, the U.S. Census Bureau is conducting a test in the Savannah, Georgia media market, integrating new media strategies with traditional communications tactics. The Census Bureau segmented the market into five test panels, serving varying mixes of digital media in those panels and matching relevant advertisements with hard to count audiences. The resulting findings will inform policy decisions for increasing census response rates, including whether to use digital advertising to promote the census in 2020 and beyond. Background During the years preceding the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will pursue its commitment to reduce the cost of conducting the next decennial census while still providing the highest data quality possible. A primary decennial census cost driver is the collection of data in person from addresses for which the Census Bureau received no response. We refer to these as nonresponse cases, and to the in person visits to them as Nonresponse Followup, or NRFU. Increasing the number of people who take advantage of self response options (such as completing a paper questionnaire and mailing it back to the Census Bureau, or responding via telephone or Internet alternatives) can contribute to a less costly census. The Census Bureau has committed to using the Internet as a primary response option in the 2020 Census, so we need to study ways to offer and promote the Internet as a self response option for the 2020 Census. In addition to increasing and optimizing self response through the Internet, the Census Bureau plans to incorporate the use of new technologies, such as advertising via social media, encouraging the use of the Internet as the primary response mode and allowing respondents to submit a paper or electronic

3 questionnaire without a unique geographic identification code. We are focusing on studying these outreach and self response approaches in the 2015 Census Test in the Savannah, GA area. The 2015 Census Test in selected counties in and surrounding Savannah, GA, and adjacent counties in South Carolina, will allow the Census Bureau to study a variety of new methods and advanced technologies that are under consideration for the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau will conduct this test in the Savannah Media Market, which includes 20 counties, 17 in Georgia and 3 in South Carolina, with approximately 350,000 households. This media market has diversity in demographics, address types, and Internet penetration and usage. We primarily selected this market because we consider it fairly self contained, which will limit bleed over of advertising efforts into neighboring media markets, while conducting a full outreach and advertising effort for all households in the test area. Additionally, it is cost effective for the Census Bureau to advertise in this medium sized market area; we are able to purchase media for approximately seven cents on the dollar for identical advertising in a large market, such as Chicago. While operational tests can exist independently, we cannot conduct an advertising test without a concurrent operational test. That said, our advertising efforts are not only allowing us to answer advertising research questions, but are also supporting the Optimizing Self Response (OSR) site test. The test began on February 23, 2015 with Notify Me. This operation allowed potential respondents to register in advance and choose their preferred contact method, text or , for notification when the actual Census Test commenced. Data collection began on March 23, 2015 with a Census Day of April 1. Only 90,000 households within the test site were selected to receive mail notifications, 30,000 received invitations to preregister, 30,000 received invitations to respond online with a Census ID, and 30,000 received invitations to respond online without a Census ID. Test responses driven by advertising are considered non ID cases, and any household in the market is able to respond through advertising channels whether or not they were in sample to receive a mailing. Simulating a Decennial Census Environment We designed the communications program for the 2015 Census Test to mimic a decennial census environment on a smaller scale, that is, we implemented all traditional advertising tactics utilized in the 2010 Census while adding and testing new tactics, specifically general and targeted digital advertising and social media. Traditional advertising tactics consist of TV, radio, print, out of home, earned media, and partnerships, which are all spread throughout the test market. Broadcast quality TV advertisements are an important component of our efforts to raise awareness of the census test within the test market. We produced three distinctive ads with a 90, 60, and 15 second version for each concept: Fabric, My Census, and Questions. These ads also served as the foundation for corresponding videos in other formats: digital ads, testimonials, and social share videos. Fabric appeals to those who feel a connection to history and the notion of ancestry, making the census a part of the ties that bind families and communities. My Census appeals to those who are most concerned about the specific areas of impact that may be most relevant, such as schools, jobs, and 2

4 roads. Finally, Questions plays on the curiosity of children, using their inquisitive nature and near universal popularity as a launching pad for educating audiences on the impacts of census data. We created multiple versions of radio ads, both prerecorded and live read scripts for radio personalities to read while on air, for use on AM and FM frequencies. Placements were purchased mostly during the morning and evening rush hour drive times and within programming focused on hardto count audiences. Print advertisements were designed for newspapers and magazines and to reach populations (particularly in rural areas) who are more likely to notice and/or trust their local or demographically oriented publication. Out of Home ads were placed in the form of billboards of varying sizes as they are an effective way to deliver messages to consumers living in both rural and suburban areas. We made media toolkits available on the Census website containing resources for outlets and reporters interested in covering or learning more about the 2015 Census Test. These contained a test timeline, answers to frequently asked questions, fact sheets, approved spokespeople with contact lists and bios, list of partners, and information on planned events. We also signed on over 300 partners to promote the importance of the 2015 Census test and encourage response among their networks. We worked with many partners on our two main events: an early media event and another on Census Day. New advertising tactics for the 2015 Census Test include general and targeted digital advertising and greater use of social media. These tactics have grown in prevalence and popularity due to technologic advances occurring after the last Census in In 2010, only eight percent of the advertising budget supported digital advertising; in this test, the digital advertising allotment, including mobile, is approximately 48 percent. General digital advertising consists of online advertisements in any platform designed for mass consumption. Targeted digital advertisements are also executable within any platform but are designed for consumption by a specific audience with tailored messaging, language, and/or placement. Benefits to using digital advertising include: less expensive entry costs, scalable budgets, greater targeting precision, real time feedback, the ability to efficiently pilot and test, and the ability to quickly adjust strategies. In addition to using digital ads within social media platforms such and Facebook and Twitter, we also have increased our social media presence and increased our engagement of the community. We publicly provided social media shareable content via our social hub, encouraged the use of our hashtag #wecount2015, and also have an online gallery where people can share stories and photos. We also encouraged our partners to share information related to the test via their social media properties. Advertising Test In addition to supporting the OSR test and encouraging online response via messaging, we are also attempting to answer communications research questions regarding the use and impact of general and targeted digital advertising. Additionally, we also embedded another test on using influencer phone calls. Our overarching research question is: What are the effects of integrating and combining digital advertising and targeted digital advertising with other traditional communications? Specifically, we will explore the effects on: internet and overall self response rates, internet and self response rates of 3

5 specific socio demographic groups, internet and self response rates of housing unit targeted by specific OSR mail out strategies, and also on preregistration rates (from Notify Me ). For these same rates, we will analyze the effects of high and low spending levels for both types of digital advertising. We created the following panel design to allow us to answer our research questions upon completion of the 2015 Census Test. *estimated Therefore, the type of advertising one is exposed to in the test area is dependent upon the zip code in which they reside and to which panel that zip code belongs. All 106 zip codes in the test market belong to one of the five panels above. Note there are a few more than 106 zip codes, but we linked those zip codes with fewer than 400 households to their nearest larger neighbor. To assign zip codes to panels, we ran Monte Carlo style simulations and selected the final design based on two primary objectives: 1. To maximize the parity between eight demographic characteristics using seven variables related to historically low response rates from previous Census and the American Community Survey and one measure of internet connectivity. (These include: percent age 18 24, percent age 65+, percent renters, percent African American, percent of households with children under six related to household residents, percent less than high school education, percent of households with female head of household with no male present, and percent of households with internet access.) 4

6 2. To maximize geographic closeness of the zip codes within panels to help alleviate advertising bleed, or advertising viewed in a location for which it was not intended. Additionally, we embedded a smaller test on the effectiveness of influencer phone calls to motivate selfresponse. Past research shows mixed results on their overall efficacy; however, we are utilizing this opportunity to determine whether we will continue to explore this tactic. While we cannot easily scale influencer calls to the entire nation during the 2020 Census, we believe they can be useful in particularly hard to count areas and/or as crisis mitigation for unexpected issues. Of the households that are not receiving any type of OSR mailing, we are selecting 60,000 households (randomly distributed across five panels) to receive phone calls, and there will be a control panel of approximately 145,000 households. We are also attempting to observe the effect of using different voices for these calls two community leaders, one elected official and one civic leader, and one voice that would likely have the same appeal anywhere in the nation. Each voice is assigned to 20,000 households. We secured the commitment of both Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson and top Savannah CBS news affiliate anchor Sonny Dixon to serve as our two local voices. The first wave of calls will occur from March 30 April 1, and the second set from May Taking the Test All advertising and partnership activities direct respondents to our test landing page with basic information about the test, a link to even more information on intercensal testing activities, a map, and a list of eligible counties. From there, respondents click a Begin Survey button that takes them to the secure response application called Centurion, where they actually complete the test census. The final page within Centurion also asks respondents to report how they heard about the test census by checking all applicable boxes. After response submission, the respondent is taken to our exit page, which thanks the respondent and allows them to access the social hub, videos, and shareable content. 5

7 Conclusion Upon the completion of the 2015 Census Test in the Savannah media market, our research team will work with both the advertising and response data to answer the research questions stated earlier. Results will help guide the planning for additional tests in advance of the 2020 Census and will inform early planning for the 2020 Census Integrated Communications Contract. As technology continues to evolve we must continue to adapt our communications strategies and tactics to reach people in the right places with the right messages to efficiently produce an accurate population count while saving taxpayer money at every opportunity. 6

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