Congress slashes spending for White House drug office

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White House drug office officials said they will have to be more efficient and better targeted now that Congress has cut spending on the youth anti-drug media campaign by 17.2%.

Congress on Nov. 20 approved an appropriations bill that would provide the campaign with $120 million in media spending-a $25 million drop from the $145 million spent during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. But the $25 million drop actually represents a falloff worth up to $50 million because media companies provide a free ad for each paid ad.

Robert W. Denniston, who heads the ad program for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said last week that the drug office is still sorting out details of the legislation's effects. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding, New York, recently won the drug office account, which had previously been handled by WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York. Creative for the campaign comes from the Partnership for A Drug-Free America.

"It's fair to say that we will not be able to buy as much media as in past years due to fewer dollars," he said. "Further, the expected 8.8% rise in media costs will further reduce the campaign's visibility in paid media."

corporate program

Congress is requiring that no more than 10% of the spending go toward administrative or production costs, replacing a requirement last year that 78% of the drug office funding go toward advertising. The 78% mandate caused the drug office to cancel a corporate program last year that will now be restored.

Tom Riley, a drug-office spokes-man, said the goal this year will be to try to hit drug-office targets with less money.

The program got strong backing at first, but Congress has been more skeptical recently, with some congressmen and senators questioning the ads' effectiveness and others noting problems that led to a civil settlement and criminal cases against some former Ogilvy officials. Critics have also complained that the drug office is spending too much of the advertising money on public relations activities.

Mr. Riley said assessments show the campaign is working and said the drug office will be working this year to bolster spending next year.

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