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Score one for the U.S. Census Bureau -- a highly coveted 30-second television ad during the second quarter of the Super Bowl for about half the $2.7 million the time originally cost.

It's the first time the federal government has paid for a spot during the biggest game in professional football, Census officials said Thursday.

They scooped up the space for the bargain-basement price of $1.4 million after another advertiser dropped out and forfeited a similar amount it had deposited as a down payment, the bureau said.

The ad is part of the Census Bureau's game plan to increase mail-response rates for the 2000 count.

Only 65 percent of Census forms were filled out and mailed back in 1990, compared with 78 percent in 1980 -- the first time response rates ever declined.

So the bureau devised a $167 million television, radio and print ad campaign that started in November.

The heart of the campaign kicks off with the coveted spot during Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams.

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