Ad Agency That Overbilled White House Axed From Media Campaign

Washington, DC: New York advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather will no longer oversee the White House’s billion dollar “National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign,” federal officials announced this week. The firm, which drew Congressional criticism in 2003 after it overbilled the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 3,100 hours, had produced the campaign’s public service announcements since the White House initiated the program in 1998.

The advertising agency Foot Cone & Belding will now produce the campaign’s anti-drug advertisements. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is expected to have creative control over the ads’ content, which in past years has focused primarily on marijuana, and has alleged that recreational drug use funds international terrorism.

Earlier this year, a four-year evaluation of the “National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign” performed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the campaign failed to alter viewers’ perceptions of marijuana or reduce its use among young people.

“There is little evidence of direct favorable Campaign effects on youth, either for the Marijuana Initiative period or for the Campaign as a whole,” the evaluation concluded. “Youth who were more exposed to Campaign messages are no more likely to hold favorable beliefs or intentions about marijuana than are youth less exposed to those messages, both during the Marijuana Initiative period and over the entire course of the Campaign.”

Previous evaluations also noted that teens that had the greatest exposure to the White House’s ad campaign were most likely to hold “pro-drug” beliefs.

The White House has since severed ties with the Annenberg School.

Since the ad campaign’s inception, the White House has spent approximately $2 billion in taxpayer moneys and matching funds to produce dozens of anti-drug public service announcements and buy air-time on television and radio. Congress is presently deliberating over a White House request to continue funding the program at a cost of $170 million per year.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of the NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-5500.