Role of integrated marketing central to drug campaign

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The world of integrated marketing-the process of reaching target audiences with a variety of marketing techniques-is definitely not an ad-centric world, and therein lies the problem. Most ad agencies still want it to be, and more and more clients are looking for solutions beyond traditional media.

That's also the major reason the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Partnership for a Drug Free America, the organizations that are supposed to be working together to slow teen-age drug use, have ended up fighting each other at every turn.

The government sees its job as running a "comprehensive public health communications campaign"-not just an ad campaign. Alan Levitt, project manager of the anti-drug effort, talked about how the program has a big Internet component and taps into the entertainment community. He added that Ogilvy & Mather, the controversial agency that handles media buying and ad evaluation among other things, lined up sports celebrities like Tara Lipinski and players from Women's World Cup Soccer. Alan told me that advertising and marketing and public health experts all told the drug control office that an integrated campaign was needed to change behavior, but he said that even so 87% of the funds have been spent on traditional media-more than what most marketers allocate.

On the other hand, Allen Rosenshine, Chairman-CEO of BBDO Worldwide who serves as vice chairman of the Partnership, testified at a hearing this summer that while the anti-drug campaign originated with "an elegantly simple vision, today it attempts to adhere to an unwieldy theoretical construct of a fully-integrated social marketing campaign.

"The plan has called for achieving as many as 19 different strategic communications objectives via an integrated communications plan encompassing advertising, celebrity involvement, entertainment content, on-line events, corporate involvement and sponsorship and so on, with everything's impact evaluated by its impact on behavioral outcomes."

It all sounds good in theory, said Mr. Rosenshine, but he went on to add that "significant amounts of money were written off by companies promulgating the theories of fully integrated marketing in the 1980s, only to conclude what we suggest to you today. The advent of new communications technologies since then has only increased the appetite for theories that have proved ineffective and wasteful."

Mr. Rosenshine, I fear, is making a big mistake by minimizing the impact of integration among clients-some of which may be his own. At our Adwatch conference this summer, Pepsi-Cola North America President Dawn Hudson told how Mountain Dew and Dodge teamed for a joint promotion, but not at the behest of their agency, BBDO. "We share the same agency. They could have put us together," said Ms. Hudson. "What we're looking for is a marketing solution, not just an advertising solution."

And contrary to the Partnership's complaint that the drug control office isn't spending enough money on media, Julie Roehm, director of Dodge communications at the Chrysler Group, put it bluntly. "If you're only about 30-second TV commercials, you're in big trouble. What other ways are there to communicate your brand promise, to connect with consumers to create that relationship and loyalty?" asked Ms. Roehm.

So, what we have here is that both sides agree the anti-drug campaign goes beyond TV commercials and draws on many other marketing disciplines. While the White House drug office feels the campaign is on the right track, the Partnership contends what's needed is to return to the single focus of repeating the same message over and over again and not dissipating media spending with other less effective promotional thrusts. The Partnership also feels the campaign has too many themes. Writing in the Washington Post, Jim Burke, the former chairman of Johnson & Johnson and current chairman of the Partnership, said that "with fewer messages being delivered to the target audience-and with multiple themes forced into the advertising-is it any wonder the campaign has had a negligible impact in the last two years?"

But when the drug office did what the Partnership is espousing-run one campaign with the same theme over and over again-it seemed to work, even if the TV spots weren't created by Partnership agencies but by O&M.

I'm referring to the series of ads the drug office ran earlier this year linking drug use with helping terrorism. An annual survey sponsored by the National Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education found that 74% of students surveyed said the terrorism ads made them less likely to use drugs. Alan also points out that the Partnership's ads using J. Walter Thompson Co., "It's not pestering, It's parenting," have been equally effective.

Here's my take on this whole mess. Whether the Partnership likes it or not, the drug control office is the client, and more and more clients are demanding some sort of integrated effort. On the other hand, the Partnership has a point when its people say the anti-drug ads have been watered down by too many themes and strategies, although with three different target audiences-kids, parents and other influences-it would seem to be hard to avoid.

One change that will certainly help the drug control office and the Partnership is that the client-the drug office-for the first time has direct access to the creative people at the Partnership agencies.

"We're not about to produce `reefer madness' ads," Alan said. Changing behavior is "much more subtle, and that's why the creative people need to understand the nuances and have to know so much more about the subject."

You can see the results of the new interaction starting Sept. 17, when the drug control office and the Partnership launch the biggest campaign against teen-age use of marijuana in our nation's history.

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