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The White House moved swiftly toward the launching of a major anti-drug ad program last week. Besides winning a key funding vote in the House of Representatives, federal authorities hired Omnicom Group's Porter/Novelli to look at specific campaign needs and the potential for corporate sponsorship of anti-drug ads.

The House approved $195 million to fund the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for fiscal 1998, with $149 million of that set aside for the first year of what's planned as a five-year ad effort. The Senate had earlier approved $110 million in ad funding. A House-Senate conference panel will set the final spending figure.

In its spending bill, the House required the White House to get congressional approval of a strategic plan for the campaign, a step that would likely delay any ads from appearing until Congress returns in January. The Senate bill has no similar restriction.

While national advertising is unlikely to begin before early 1998, the White House drug office is eyeing the possibility that ads might be launched in a few pilot markets before that.

Alan Levitt, senior adviser to the director of the drug office, said ads in pilot markets might use creative from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.


The White House office is targeting 9-to-17-year-olds and hopes to reach them several times a week with anti-drug messages by getting one free spot for every spot the government buys.

Mr. Levitt said media companies are expected to contribute much of that free time, but the government also is hopeful corporations will pitch in by providing creative or time for more spots.

"There is an assumption that the private sector will match what we buy," he said, "but we know not all the private sector match will come from the networks. Some will come from corporate America."


Corporations might use their own agencies to produce anti-drug ads that could be used by the White House drug office. He said corporate names could be allowed on ads.

The $915,000 contract awarded to Porter/Novelli, Washington, calls for it to look at current anti-drug creative needs not now being served; develop a program for pitching corporations; create a means for evaluating effectiveness of anti-drug ads; and prepare a bidding proposal the government could use to select a media buyer and possibly an ad agency.

Until Porter/Novelli finishes its work, Mr. Levitt said, it isn't clear whether the drug office will hire an ad agency for creative.

"We intend the Partnership will be the primary producer of our ads," he said. "We don't want to undermine pro bono efforts."

Currently ad agencies producing Partnership ads pay their own out-of-pocket costs. Under the plan, the White House office will now pay those costs.

He said an ad agency might be hired for other functions, like research or

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