Beat Out JWT for $150 Million Contract

By Published on .

WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Looking to move past years of controversy with its former advertising agency, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy this morning announced it has awarded its youth anti-drug media campaign to Foote Cone & Belding, New York.

FCB, part of Interpublic Group of Cos.,

See Full Background:
The Stories From 2001 to the Present

competed with WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson for the account. The White House's former agency, Ogilvy & Mather, is also part of WPP.

The government has spent around $150 million a year on the youth anti-drug campaign, and broadcasters and other media companies are required to provide a free ad for every paid ad, effectively making the campaign much larger.

As part of FCB's bid, Interpublic sibling Initiative Media will handle media buying on the account.

Spending may be cut
Congress has been looking to cut spending for next year. While almost all the creative for the campaign comes from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the ad agency does extensive research on creative needs and tests ads in addition to negotiating deals with media companies to fulfill the match requirement.

The seemingly prestigious assignment, one of the biggest government ad contracts, has proved to be a major embarrassment for Ogilvy since shortly after the ad agency won the account in 1999.

Billing practices
While Ogilvy drew praise for its strategic work and media buying from drug office officials, some congressmen blasted the agency for its initial billing practices, in part because Ogilvy won the account without having a required government accounting system in place.

Allegations that Ogilvy officials, upset with not drawing enough revenue on the account, altered time cards to increase billing hours led in 2002 to Ogilvy settling for $1.8 million civil allegations brought by the government.

Earlier this year three former Ogilvy officials were charged with defrauding the government and overcharging the White House drug office for work done as part of the multimillion-dollar account.

Congressmen, notably former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., repeatedly criticized the drug office for keeping Ogilvy, saying during several high-profile hearings that the ad agency had acted fraudulently.

Third bid
The ONDCP had previously rebid the contract, only to award it again to Ogilvy. That decision, however, continued to infuriate a number of congressmen, and ultimately the drug office put up the account for a third bid.

Few ad agencies were in this latest review, as the drug office, trying to quickly chose a new agency, limited bidding to agencies already qualified to bid on government contracts through the General Services Administration. The account is the largest government ad contract to be done through that process.

Most Popular