House wants to cut drug campaign budget

The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that cuts $10 million from the $180 million budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign and makes future funding of the campaign contingent on evidence of a reduction in drug use among youth.

ONDCP launched the campaign in January 1998. Media accepting the money had to match the dollars spent by the government with an equivalent value in public-service announcements, programming or other activities.

According to the American Advertising Federation, the bill would also withhold payment for work done since Oct. 1 by Ogilvy & Mather (though the AAF did not name it), the ad agency handling the campaign for the ONDCP.

O&M settled out of court a suit alleging accounting irregularities and overcharges associated with the contract, then it was reawarded the ONDCP contract anyway (for $151,913,165 over the next year) in early July.

If O&G finally gets its money and retains the contract, it will have gotten about $750 million in ONDCP business since 1998.

According to the AAF, Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) was behind the O&M-targeted language and, in a hearing Friday of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Drug Policy, said that while he supported anti-drug advertising, O&M shouldn't have gotten the job.

O&M countered that it had won an open bidding fair and square.