Comments from retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, head of the White House drug control office, suggested that the media would be expected to provide bonus time or space, and that resulted in expressions of surprise from broadcasters.
$1 BIL IN DONATED TIME NOW
"Broadcasters currently donate more than $1 billion a year toward the prevention of substance abuse in the form of free airtime, production costs and local station community outreach programs," said Dennis Wharton, VP-media relations for the National Association of Broadcasters.
Some ad groups said privately they were worried that the government spending could make the media less willing to air public service announcements.
The ad appropriation was in the Clinton administration's fiscal 1998 budget, sent to Congress two weeks ago, but wasn't specifically detailed in the budget books. Later reports indicated Gen. McCaffrey envisioned the campaign as a $350 million effort, half apparently coming from contributions of space and time by the media.
But the White House and Gen. McCaffrey's office quickly said that was a misunderstanding, explaining that he meant to imply that the new paid ads would be on top of current anti-drug PSAs.
"We would want anyone who can be part of the fight against drugs to make resources available," presidential press secretary Mike McCurry told Advertising Age. "A number of networks have done that."
He said no additional requests to the media had been made.
Neither Mr. McCurry nor Gen. McCaffrey's office could offer many details on the program, which still must win congressional approval.
TARGETING KIDS, PARENTS
Don Maple, director of public affairs for the White House drug office, said the campaign would target young people and their parents, be narrowly focused and also mention marijuana use.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America praised the plan; it noted, however, that the $265 million in free media time it got last year was down $100 million from 1991.
"We don't think we will lose out at all," said Partnership President Richard D. Bonnette. "If what the government does is synchronize, [our message] will be more impactful and effective. We know advertising works."