The simple call to action, Help tomorrow take shape, was designed to invite everyone to participate in shaping the future of their local environment, in everything from key services such as health and education to local parks and facilities. The central element of the publicity campaign took as its starting point the folded origami census logo (building on the ‘shape’ concept) and purple branding, and used this to create origami objects such as buses and hospitals; themselves an end ‘benefit’ of the census.

The national campaign was designed to reach the entire population in order to ensure maximum census awareness and to promote high levels of response. It had three distinct phases:

  • phase 1 - aimed at educating the general public about the upcoming 2011 Census

  • phase 2 - a call to action, informing the general public that it was time to complete their census questionnaires

  • phase 3 - focused on reminding those who had not returned their questionnaire that the 2011 Census was compulsory

The challenge was to reach the target audience of 25.4 million households. So the national publicity campaign used a broad mix of communication channels to attempt to expose everybody in England and Wales, at some point, to the census campaign via advertisements on TV and radio, billboard posters, online advertising and in print. In Wales, the campaign was conducted bilingually.

The TV advertising campaign was a success in raising awareness for the census. Leading up to census day, the census advert had the highest national TV commercial recall beating leading supermarkets to the number one spot.

By the end of the campaign, some 86 per cent of all adults had seen the advertisement(s), including 90 per cent of those aged 75 or over, 80 per cent of the black and ethnic minority audience, and 77 per cent of students.

Students were a key audience and a comprehensive student outreach schedule was implemented including NUS and student union engagement, direct liaison with university communication departments, student newspapers and journalists. Student volunteers also promoted the census on campus, and partnerships with targeted university student courses were developed to promote the census.

Local authority and community engagement also proved to be a real highlight of the 2011 Census communication strategy, and at minimal or no cost to ONS. Support and communications was provided via school and library activities; census was promoted through newsletters, website and outreach teams; additional outdoor advertising was bought and census branded templates were used.

In co-operation with various local authorities, ONS commissioned a census branded purple double-decker bus to visit major towns and cities around England and Wales consolidating awareness in advance of census day and providing a mobile questionnaire completion facility in key areas.

This combination of paid-for and earned communication was a success. It was a cost effective approach, but, more importantly, the partnerships created with census stakeholders helped to make this a more co-ordinated campaign.

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