SENATE LOOKS TO STRIP OGILVY OF DRUG ACCOUNT

New Bill to Shift Control to Partnership for a Drug-Free America

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Fifteen months after WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather won a second contract for the White House's youth anti-drug media campaign, a draft of a Senate bill to reauthorize the campaign would strip the ad agency of the effort and grant the Partnership for a Drug-Free America more control over it.

The measure, which is being prepared by

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Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, also requires that as much as 89% of the money Congress provides go toward actual advertising.

Audit sought
The legislation, which is unlikely to get consideration before next year, also calls for the General Accounting Office to audit the campaign.

Ogilvy, which launched the original youth anti-drug ads using creative from the Partnership, got into trouble when its first billings to the government failed to comply with federal accounting requirements. Ogilvy eventually agreed to forgo $1.8 million in billings in a settlement with the government, but some congressmen have insisted the ad agency should be replaced.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said it would have no comment until legislation is introduced. Likewise, a spokesman for the Partnership said the group is waiting to see the legislation but would have no other comment before it is introduced. Ogilvy referred calls to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Recently renewed
In 2002 the drug office rebid the campaign, but re-awarded the account to Ogilvy, citing the agency's expertise. Ogilvy, part of WPP Group, has a multi-year contract that is renewed annually and the contract was just recently renewed through next September.

Several senators have for several months urged tough new language on the future of the drug campaign be included in reauthorization language, but the draft just started circulating this week. Ogilvy's role was also a consideration in the House, but legislation that eventually went through committee only required more money be used for advertising.

Spending cuts?
Congress has yet to make a final decision this year on funding for the campaign, and the Senate has already indicated its tough line by adopting in committee a proposal to cut spending from the current $150 million to about $100 million.

Drug office officials have said they hoped to have full funding restored when Congress complete appropriations actions, which is expected to happen either this week or next.

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