GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS TO UP AD BUDGETS: POSTAL SERVICE, DRUG OFFICE, ARMED SERVICES LIKELY WILL INCREASE SPENDING

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Uncle sam wants more media time.

The government's thirst for more media started this July when the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy began spending $100 million to $125 million in national advertising, a purse that expands to $150 million next year.

The U.S. Census Bureau begins a $100 million campaign in '99 to promote the 2000 Census to encourage people to fill out forms thereby minimize the expense associated with sending out enumerators. Part of the money will be aimed at reaching those who don't speak English.

RECRUITING BUDGET BOOST

House and Senate conferees currently are debating the House's suggestion that military recruitment problems in a strong economy warrant a $53 million boost in military recruitment advertising for the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1. The military wants college-level recruits, and is less competitive when jobs of higher pay are available in the private sector. The armed forces spent $132.8 million in '97, down 2.7% from the prior year.

U.S. Postal Service will take on the air-freight industry next year with a feature that provides delivery confirmation for Priority Mail.

TRACING AT THE POST OFFICE

The feature will allow U.S. Postal Service shippers the same ability to trace shipments that Federal Express and United Parcel Service offer, and is expected to get major rollout support. It isn't clear whether overall ad spending will increase or just get moved from other ad programs, which in '97 hit $129 million, down 23.3%.

Not counted in ad increases for 1999 are any monies from anti-tobacco advertising, which at least for a few years could dwarf U.S. government total ad spending if tobacco marketers reach a national concensus. Tobacco companies at one point offered $500 million a year for such advertising.

Legislators on both sides of Congress have also talked of the federal government funding an anti-smoking ad campaign. One may yet emerge as the sole tobacco legislation from Congress or it may emerge from negotiations between tobacco companies and state attorneys general.

Tobacco companies funded major anti-smoking advertising programs in all the states where they settled lawsuits.

Ad growth comes from a combination of circumstances, with some like the Census Bureau and military spending due to special situations.

Drug office spending is due to the media savvy Clinton administration increasingly looking at advertising as a way to accomplish policy goals without some of the political perils of other alternatives.

Against the coming increases in government spending, last year's Postal Service decrease appears almost illogical and odd, and it is.Reacting to the recent controversy over former marketing chief Loren Smith's shift of monies designed for below-the-line to bolster media advertising for Priority Mail, the Postal Service carved spending in 1997 on Priority Mail ads. That cut accounts for all the decrease in government advertising.

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