2011 National Census

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) appointed us to deliver a fully integrated communications campaign for the 2011 Census in England and Wales. The campaign had to reach every single household – some 60 million people – raising awareness and educating about the Census, motivating people to complete it and telling them how to do so.

Big Changes Across the Nation

The national Census faced its biggest change in 200 years. In fact, it faced a slew of changes to the way the Census was distributed and collected, moving from face-to-face enumerators to a change towards postal distribution and online completion.

They also faced a changing population, with a response rate that declined between the two previous Census, and little or no presence nationally since the Census in 2001.

These changes would mean the 2011 Census would:

  • Become the largest ever direct mail in the UK – and the largest ever online site access potential on a single day and single week.
  • Need to address the diversity of UK household audience segments due to the changing shape of mainstream families and niche audiences within the country.
  • Connect with hard-to-reach UK population groups, including students; young adults; black, minority and ethnic groups; over 65 year olds; single parents; lower income groups and the unemployed.
  • Overcome major social barriers; in particular the mistrust over data security and confidentiality, and a rise in cynicism and general apathy.

This meant our big idea had to be really big, highly adaptable, and more targeted than previous catch-all Census campaigns.

Help Tomorrow Take Shape

Making this change successful would involve several areas of Bray Leino expertise, including advertising, digital, direct, strategy, communications and channel planning. Drawing on our direct marketing experience, research insights into the demographic challenges and an active strategy and planning approach, we proposed a campaign that aimed to change behaviour.

‘Help Tomorrow Take Shape’ took the Census questionnaire itself as inspiration – changing shape into whatever we needed to say. The behaviour change message built into the creative was designed to encourage the people of Britain to help change their world for the better. 

We used real-time planning to help us engage with specific audiences, including 376 local authorities and set our idea to work in 3 phases, nationally and locally across TV, outdoor, digital, experiential and ambient media.

The Result?

Meeting the changes head on resulted in a 94% response rate, exceeding all expectations, and saving over £20 million for our client.

Oliver Doerle, Head of Marketing 2011 Census had this say:“Bray Leino was the only agency who understood, and had the capabilities to deliver, the critical changes needed to make the Census a success. Not only did they significantly exceed our response target, their inclusive way of working and cost efficiencies were a refreshing change too.”


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