Key win for FCB: ONDCP finally settles on agency

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After five years of controversy, repeat bidding and federal indictments, the White House anti-drug campaign has a new agency.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy moved its account from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding, New York; Interpublic's Initiative Media will handle media buying.

The ONDCP win is an important one for FCB. It is the first major piece of new business since the agency snagged Yum Brands' $200 million KFC account last year. It also comes as the agency awaits a decision on the global review from its client Samsung. Observers stopped short of calling the victory a momentum-builder for FCB, but the added revenue could help to soften the blow if the agency were to lose that business.

"I don't know that this signals a turnaround, but it does show that they're on the right track," said Leslie Winthrop, founder and managing partner at AAR Partners, a New York-based consultancy. "They're moving in the right direction."

Since the account does not involve creative, it is less profitable than creative accounts of the same size. Almost all the creative for the campaign comes from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, but the ad agency does extensive research on creative needs and tests ads, in addition to negotiating deals with media companies.

Spending on the campaign has been running about $150 million a year, but media companies are required to provide a free ad for every paid ad, effectively making the campaign much larger. Congress has been looking at cutting spending for next year.

The ad assignment, one of the biggest government ad contracts, has proved a major embarrassment for Ogilvy since shortly after the agency won the account in 1999.

Ogilvy paid $1.8 million earlier this year to settle claims that executives altered records to make up for what they saw as low revenue on the account.

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