May 6th, 2024

California DMV REAL ID Campaign

Helping Californians Get REAL ID Ready

Despite pushbacks of the enforcement date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans will still be required to show a REAL ID to board domestic flights or enter federal facilities beginning May 2025. So when the California DMV tasked us with helping encourage Californians to update their ID’s before the original due date’s last-minute rush, we knew we needed an educational yet exciting campaign showcasing the many benefits of REAL ID, as well as the updates the DMV has made to make it as easy as possible to obtain one.

Our Roles

Media planning & buying
Public relations
Campaign development
Social media
Email marketing
Mobile & display advertising


As the original REAL ID deadline approached, many Californians continued to put off getting one—mainly to avoid a trip to a DMV field office. They also weren’t aware of the enforcement date, as well as the correct documents needed to secure a REAL ID. Knowing this, our work was cut out for us: create a positive uptick in the REAL ID conversion numbers by clarifying and simplifying the process of obtaining one for the average Californian.

In tandem with this, the DMV also sought to evolve its image toward being a “digital-first” agency, encouraging Californians to take care of their DMV tasks online while positioning brick-and-mortar field offices as a “last resort” option for getting in-person support or processing complex transactions.


Despite promotional efforts, 72 percent of Californians are still not aware of the steps the DMV has taken to expand their online service offerings, with many still opting to complete transactions via other methods. For example, despite 73 percent of Californians being aware they can renew their registration online, fewer than half do so. Coupled with this, only 30 percent of Californians have upgraded their licenses/ID cards to a REAL ID, with research showing simple procrastination as the reason behind the low adoption numbers. This has validated concerns of field offices being overwhelmed leading up to the enforcement date.


The DMV’s goals were clear: encourage people to beat the rush to get a REAL ID, while reducing unnecessary field office visits for simple DMV tasks. To accomplish these goals, we launched a full-scale branding initiative and a 360 degree awareness campaign showcasing the REAL benefits a REAL ID can bring to every Californian, and how getting one can now be accomplished on your time and terms. 


Using data provided by DMV field offices, RSE ran a comprehensive analysis of who was most likely to complete DMV transactions online and implemented A/B testing to identify the most effective messaging and media channels to reach these groups.

Upon approval of the communications and implementation plan, three different creative concepts were developed and tested via an online panel of approximately 600 participants. RSE then rapidly developed and launched a statewide public education campaign based upon the results. Simultaneous to this effort, a new REAL ID logo, tagline and set of brand guidelines were crafted to ensure brand consistency across all DMV efforts. 

The all-new REAL ID microsite and “REAL Life” paid media campaign were launched less than two months after the contract was awarded and have been translated into eight languages including Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog and Russian.

Shortly after Governor Newsom issued shelter-in-place orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, DMV field offices were shuttered. RSE pivoted our strategy to transition DMV transactions from in-person office visits to online transactions, putting added focus on the revamped DMV website. 


As of Spring 2023, our work for the DMV has garnered nearly 900 million paid impressions for REAL ID, with over 18 million conversions taking place since our work began. Our online services work has also reached over 600 million paid impressions and spurred 11.5 million transactions.

In addition to this, our messaging gained traction with the public through over 18,000 organizations contacted, 70 community events, 957 earned media placements, and over 2 billion in readership.