Senator attacks Bates USA role in White House anti-drug campaign

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Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R., Ariz.) attacked White House use of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. ad agency Bates USA to buy media for the government's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Bates (mostly through sibling shop Zenith Media) has been handling the account on an interim basis since spring while the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy conducts an agency review.

Bates picked up the White House work under an existing contract it holds with the U.S. Department of Defense. Bates and Zenith are among the agencies seeking the White House assignment in the current review.

Contending Bates has a conflict of interest because of its B&W work, Sen. McCain asked the White House for details about how Bates was selected and the work it has done thus far on the anti-drug campaign. "It is inconceivable to me," Sen. McCain wrote White House drug policy chief General Barry McCaffrey, "that [the White House] has disbursed millions of tax dollars for marketing efforts to deter our nation's children from using illicit drugs, including tobacco...to an agency which represents one of our largest tobacco companies."

A Bates spokeswoman said it is discussing the letter with the White House "but the issues outlined extend far beyond Bates and impact the entire advertising industry. We are now discussing the situation with the American Association of Advertising Agencies.''

Copyright September 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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