WHITE HOUSE DRUG OFFICE WON'T RENEW OGILVY CONTRACT

Agency Officially Informed Contract Will Be Put Out for Bid

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The White House drug office, facing continued congressional opposition to its use of WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather as its ad agency for the $150 million a year youth anti-drug campaign, notified the shop that its contract will not be renewed and will be put up for bid next year.

The White House Office of National Drug

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Control Policy said the contract, which ends next September, wasn't being pulled because of any opposition from Capitol Hill but rather because it wanted to follow Bush administration agenda toward performance-based contracts. Ogilvy can reapply for the new contract.

'Transparency and performance'
"While Ogilvy has done good work and produced powerful creative, we are making an effort to improve transparency and performance," said Tom Riley, a drug office spokesman.

He said the future contract will make an ad agency's fees dependent on its success in meeting contract requirements necessary to help the drug office achieve its goal of slowing teen drug use.

Ogilvy had no immediate comment.

Ogilvy won its original contract to handle the campaign in 1999 but immediately got into trouble with its billings amidst allegations that its employees altered time sheets and that it billed for items that weren't allowed under government contracts. That prompted the drug office to put the contract out for new bids again in 2001, but in early 2002, after agreeing to settle government claims by forgoing $1.8 million in billings, Ogilvy won a new contract, which is subject to annual renewal.

The latest move follows the departure of Alan Levitt as longtime director of the ad campaign.

Praise for Ogilvy
Mr. Levitt and other drug office officials have praised Ogilvy for its work, which included research and overseeing media buying for the campaign. Almost all ads for the campaign come from the Parternship for a Drug-Free America.

Congressional critics, however, were upset that Ogilvy continued to handle the account and suggested the ad agency had cheated the government and should be disqualified. Lawmakers used the ad agency's past problems as a focus for other changes in the drug office campaign.

Senate bill
A bill, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, with Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Joseph Biden, D-Del., was introduced in the Senate recently that would have required Ogilvy's dismissal and given greater control of the campaign to the Partnership.

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