Details were being worked out last week to permit the White House Office of Drug Control Policy to begin buying media nationally as it proceeds with a search for a permanent media shop.
"We have had phenomenal success," said Alan Levitt, senior adviser and chief of the education office, about the 12-city test of the anti-drug ads.
He said an 800-number in some ads has shown an average 25% increase in calls, while local groups whose numbers were featured in other ads are reporting that calls from concerned parents are averaging 20 minutes each.
Also, broadcasters -- under pressure from the White House, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to give more public service time -- have been supportive in offering free time for the ads in desirable programming.
"We have been getting lots of PSAs in great time slots," said Mr. Levitt.
$178 MILLION BUDGET
The drug office expects to spend $178 million on the campaign before the end of the federal fiscal year Sept. 30; it hopes to have an equal amount of free time and space.
The initial 12-city campaign used media planning from Bates USA, New York, with Bates buying print and Zenith Media buying broadcast. Ads use creative from the Partnership for a Drug Free America.
Newspapers, outdoor, radio and TV are being used in the test. The national advertising will add magazines.
The Department of Health & Human Services next month will request proposals from media buying and media planning agencies, but the government's bid process means an agency won't be hired until September at the earliest.
`WE GOT WHAT WE NEEDED'
Partnership officials said the addition of government funding for its ads has had some initial pluses and minuses. For one, the spending has assured ads run precisely when they can do the most good, said Partnership VP Tom Hedrick.
"Despite going in and buying late, we got what we needed. We got on `Seinfeld' and the Super Bowl," he said. "If you talk to people in the markets, the awareness of the ads is incredible."
The Partnership has some concerns that the drug office is trying to impose bureaucratic steps in creative approvals, which risks antagonizing the creatives.
"We are worried that they don't understand just how fragile the process is," he said. "The place for control is at the front end when you are talking about strategy."