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News Release


VMLY&R is proud to support the U.S. Census Bureau in the development of the 2020 Census Integrated Communications Campaign under the creative platform "Shape your future. START HERE." announced by the Census Bureau March 4.


Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the decennial census takes place every 10 years. The 2020 Census will determine any changes in the number of congressional seats per state and help determine state legislative and school district boundaries. Responses to the 2020 Census will also inform how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to local communities, including decisions about how public funds are spent on critical public services such as schools, fire and emergency services, and healthcare.

"The 2020 Census is intended to count every person and it is critical that our communications strategy reach and inspire a wide variety of audiences," said Alex Hughes, VMLY&R Executive Director. "This platform reflects more than 18 months of extensive research with tens of thousands of individuals who represent a wide diversity of people across America. 'Shape your future' performed strongly in testing and was found to be aspirational, informative, and relatable."

VMLY&R (formerly Y&R) secured the Integrated Communications Contract for the 2020 Census campaign in August of 2016. As the contract's primary agency VMLY&R created an integrated team for this project, Team Y&R, which includes PSB, Wavemaker, Carol H. Williams Advertising, Culture ONE World, G+G Advertising, The Kālaimoku Group, TDW+Co., VMLY&R Puerto Rico, Wavemaker Puerto Rico, Reingold, BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), DCG, and Guidehouse.

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The "Shape your future. START HERE." campaign platform was informed by the 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivators Study, an online survey of 50,000 individuals conducted by the Census Bureau in 2018. The online survey was supplemented with qualitative focus groups to uncover knowledge and attitudes among small demographic groups and those difficult to reach online.

The qualitative and quantitative data indicate that, although there are important differences across demographic groups, funding for public services is a key motivator across most demographics. Focus groups, in particular, showed that participants might be persuaded of the importance of census participation if they make the connection between completing a census form and the possibility of an increase in funding or support for their community in the future. Subsequent online testing of creative concepts led to the final development of the "Shape your future. START HERE." platform.

Multicultural agencies helped conduct the platform research, shape the direction of the creative concept, and consult representatives within the communities they target for validation of the concept. 

The following statements were made by the leadership of these agencies:

  • Tim Wang, Founder of Asian American audience partner TDW+Co., said, "We believe that through the 2020 Census, Asian American communities have an opportunity to play an active role in shaping the future by being counted, and this platform will remind them of that opportunity. Our participation matters, and this campaign hopes to inform, educate, and inspire the need for action."
  • Duly Fernandez, a founder of the campaign's Hispanic audience partner Culture ONE World, said, "The 'Shape your future' platform provides an opportunity to create and deliver important messages to the Hispanic audience. We're looking forward to bringing the concept to life with paid advertising creative, in social media platforms, and through public partnerships and events."
  • Michael Gray, President and CEO of the campaign's American Indian and Native Alaskan audience partner G&G, said, "We respect the fact that the 2020 Census platform encompasses the next generation. Native Americans are a people who continue to look ahead and overcome the past. This campaign platform represents more than just the now moment. It is about our future."
  • Carol H. Williams, CEO, President, and Chief Creative Officer of the campaign's African American audience partner Carol H. Williams Advertising, said, "We all love our communities, especially the ones we grew up in. They helped to mold us and gave us the inspiration to succeed. That's why we appreciate 'Shape your future.' It's an authentic, strong message. Through this integrated campaign, we strive to get a full count from the Black/African American communities in the 2020 Census to drive positive change."
  • John K.S. Aeto, founder of the campaign's Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) audience partner The Kālaimoku Group, said, "This is a monumental census for the NHPI community and we feel confident the 'Shape your future' platform will be a compelling message. We look forward with great optimism and confidence to an accurate and complete count of all Americans, especially the NHPI community.
  • Carlos Carbonell, Strategic Planning Director of VML Y&R Puerto Rico, said, "The creative platform 'Shape your future' is all about the hope of making things better through active participation. It's all about doing a small thing that can have a huge positive effect on each individual and on the whole community. We believe this message will help the Puerto Rican community understand why the census is important, how easy it is to respond, and how urgent it is that we fill out the questionnaire on time."

About VMLY&R

VMLY&R is a global marketing agency that harnesses creativity, technology, and culture to create connected brands. The agency is made up of nearly 7,000 employees worldwide with principal offices in Kansas City, London, New York, Washington D.C, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. VMLY&R works with client partners including Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Dell, Electrolux/Fridgidaire, Ford, Office Depot, Pfizer, and Wendy's. 

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