As the U.S. Census begins its sprawling, once-a-decade effort to count all the people living in America, special focus is being placed on reaching a wide range of immigrant and minority communities.
While such emphasis isn’t unique to the 2020 census, what is new is the dark cloud hovering over the issue of legal versus illegal immigration, with President Donald Trump having fought to include a census question about citizenship status—a move blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court.
That, along with the Trump administration’s years-long “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal immigration, has left some in the U.S. Latino community concerned about the potential of their responses to the census being used to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the presence of undocumented residents. Census officials say responses definitely will not be shared with ICE, and they’ve encouraged people of all ethnicities and backgrounds to participate in the census to ensure an accurate count—that will help ensure adequate funding for everything from medical care to education.
Despite its staggering $500 million budget and more than 1,000 creative assets, the ad campaign driving awareness of the census isn’t expected to include many elements addressing the question of legal residency.
But one ad, scheduled to roll out in the second of the campaign’s three phases, does address the issue of reluctance among some residents wary of ICE. The spot was created by Washington, D.C.-based multicultural agency Culture ONE World, one of the 13 agencies in the “Team Y&R” coalition behind the campaign.
“We developed the Hispanic and Brazilian messaging after research pinpointed specific concerns, which were widely shared across communities,” said Carlos Alcazar, co-founder of Culture ONE World. “They included concerns about privacy and a general distrust in the federal government.”
While the ad—about three Spanish-speaking friends discussing the census over dinner—has not yet been released in its entirety, the agency did provide Adweek with the relevant portion. You can watch it below, followed by a translation of the dialogue.
Luis: “Welcome to the U.S., Juan.”
Juan: “Yeah. Thanks!”
Luis: “Good to see you!”
Pedro: “Well… let’s see.” (Looking at the menu)
Juan: “Listen… I saw that at home they’re considering filling out the census, but isn’t it dangerous?”
Luis: “Not at all! I was just like you 10 years ago. I filled it out and look at me, I’m still here.”
Pedro: “Your personal information can’t be shared with ICE nor with the police. Don’t worry.”
Juan: “Well, that’s good! Right?”
“The ‘Dinner with Friends’ spot explicitly, and in a nuanced way, addresses their fears about responding to the census and clarifies their information will not be shared with ICE or law enforcement,” said Duly Fernandez, another co-founder of Culture ONE World. “Our main goal is to make it clear that, no matter what your situation, you still count, and responding to the census will benefit you, your family and your community.”
While other ads in the census campaign—including some already being shared via outdoor, radio, print and social—will highlight privacy and data security in the census, the “Dinner With Friends” spot is the only one that specifically references concerns around ICE and the potential for deportation.
The ad will air on national TV and via digital channels from March 13 to May 12. Fernandez said the spot, along with several others aimed at Hispanic audiences, were developed in close communication with the target communities and their advocates.
“We rigorously tested all of our work across diverse Hispanic communities, which included a range of stakeholders from local advocacy groups and the responses were overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We also recently shared the wide range of work with national Hispanic advocacy groups and they were all pleased to see how we tackled all the issues of concern in our community.”
In addition to Culture ONE World, lead census agency VMLY&R’s “Team Y&R” includes PSB, Wavemaker, Carol H. Williams Advertising, G&G Advertising, The Kãlaimoku Group, TDW+Co, VMLY&R Puerto Rico, Wavemaker Puerto Rico, Reingold, BCW, DCG and Guidehouse.