STUDY FAULTS WHITE HOUSE ANTI-DRUG ADS

Report Says Campaigns Have Little Impact on Youth

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- A study commissioned by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has concluded that the advertising program of the White House anti-drug office has had
Download the 29-page NIDA Executive Summary.

little impact on its primary target: America's teenagers.

Conducted jointly by the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Westat, a 30-year-old research firm in Rockville, Md., the analysis concluded that "there is little evidence of direct favorable [advertising] campaign effects on youth."

Officials of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) were not immediately available for comment today because of the Martin Luther King Day holiday, which has closed most federal offices.

In the past ONDCP officials have questioned previous NIDA evaluations, claiming they survey a far smaller number of youths than a long-running University of Michigan "Monitoring the Future" survey that has reported opposite results.

The latest release of the Monitoring the Future results, on Dec. 19, showed an 11% decline in drug use by eighth, 10th and 12th graders over the past two years. John P. Walters, the White House "drug czar" and Tom Hedrick, founding director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, attributed some of those results to the ad campaign.

$150 million
The drug office spends $150 million a year on advertising, and those expenditures have been the subject of ongoing controversy in Congress.

The NIDA report covers the advertising campaign's start in September 1999 through June 2003.

Entitled "Evaluation of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign: 2003 Report of Findings," the report issued by NIDA notes that the advertising campaigns have had a "favorable effect" on parents but not on the children, whose illicit drug use is the focus of the ads.

Marijuana emphasis
The White House ad campaign, though aimed at all illicit drug use, intensified its focus on marijuana in the fall of 2002.

However, the report said that investigators found that "youth who were more exposed to [the anti-drug advertising campaign] messages are no more likely to hold favorable beliefs or intentions about marijuana than are youth less exposed to those messages."

NIDA, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has been the agency charged with officially evaluating the White House's anti-drug ad campaigns for years.

WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, handles the drug office advertising account, but most ads come from the Partnership. A Partnership spokesman did not return calls.

Ogilvy & Mather
While the drug office has enjoyed some strong congressional support, it also has strong critics on Capitol Hill who have questioned both the ads effectiveness and the use of Ogilvy, which earlier settled for $1.8 million civil charges that it overbilled the government for its ad work on the anti-drug account. Two former Ogilvy officials were recently indicted on charges related to those disputed billings.

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