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Census Super Bowl ad doesn't add up for McCain

Sen. John McCain doesn't much approve of the Census Bureau's purchase of a $2.5 million Super Bowl ad.

The Arizona Republican says the expense is "symptomatic of the spending practices of the federal government and the Congress in a way that is completely out of touch with what's going on out there in the real world."

The Census says it is paying CBS for two 30-second ads during the pregame show in addition to a spot to be aired during the third quarter, and that it will also receive two or three live shout outs from pregame anchor James Brown.

McCain told Fox News on Wednesday that the ads are examples of "what feeds the Tea Parties. This is what feeds the anti-incumbency mood that's out there, an out-of-touch Congress and an out-of-touch administration."

The Census is running a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to promote the decennial population count. Census data is used to apportion Congressional representation and determines the amount of federal funding sent to states.

The Super Bowl ads feature Ed Begley Jr. and other stars from Christopher Guest's films such as "Best in Show" and "For Your Consideration."

The 2009 Super Bowl was watched by 98 million viewers, and this year's follows AFC and NFC championships that received record ratings.

The Census Bureau defended the Super Bowl ad buy on its blog:

Thanks to our donors and sponsors for their support of local independent reporting. Join Michael Ingram, Joel Levin, and Anita Johnson and contribute today!

The first goal of our promotion efforts is to raise awareness of the when and how the Census works," the agency said. "We have a very limited window of opportunity to achieve our goals Jan. to April, and therefore need programming that delivers high ratings. We did not choose the Super Bowl at the expense of some other programming. We went where the audience was to be found, as part of a package with CBS.

The Super Bowl is rare, in that viewers are just as tuned in to see the commercials as the program itself. Commercials that air on the Super Bowl have a multiplier effect. Advertisers are mentioned in multiple news media outlets and viewers will typically look to view them online almost immediately after airing. Therefore, airing once in the Super Bowl creates significant buzz leading to additional viewing potential.

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2 comments on this story

Feb 6, 2010, 8:53 pm
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Ah, John McCain, author of brilliant tweets like this:

“While the census is very important to AZ, we shouldn’t be wasting $2.5 million taxpayer dollars to compete with ads for Doritos!”

Doritos > funding for schools.  Got it.

Feb 4, 2010, 4:42 pm
-0 +0

I had my hair cut at Gadabout just this afternoon, and my hairdresser - whom I would say is a hip and intelligent, single head-of-household—didn’t know about the upcoming census nor how it works, didn’t even know the word. 

Seriously!  I was stunned.

So, YES, people do have to be told/reminded.

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Click image to enlarge

Ed Begley Jr in the Census ad 'Payton Schlewitt's Snapshot of America.'

Youtube Video

On the Web

Payton Schlewitt on Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/paytonschlewitt

Census Bureau: The Whole Story blog

Fox News: McCain interview