Federal Drug Czar Makes Plans For $150 Mil. Campaign, Review

Pending Congressional approval, the federal government will launch an agency review this fall for an unprecedented $150 million, five-year anti-drug campaign.
“This fall, we will ask for bids from agencies to execute this plan for 1998,” said Don Maple, deputy director of public affairs at the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, or “Drug Czar” command center. The review will begin with requests for proposals as soon as Congress appropriates funds.
The initiative will mark the first time the government will purchase airtime for anti-drug ads. In the past, organizations such as the Ad Council and The Partnership for a Drug-Free America have had to rely on the goodwill of various media to donate time or space. By paying for airtime, the government hopes to more effectively reach a larger percentage of its target market.
A representative for the partnership estimated that donated media time is 50 percent less effective than paid time because of poor targeting. Generally, media outlets reserve prime-time slots for paying sponsors, leaving less desirable dayparts available for public service announcements, including anti-drug messages.
“We’ve got to make a difference in youth attitudes in a short period of time by creating effective ads in effective time slots repeatedly,” said Maple, who works for the Drug Czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey.
The five-year campaign will be aimed primarily at the nation’s youth. Drug abuse among teenagers has risen alarmingly in the last five years, compared to a decline in drug use among adults, according to recent government figures.
Officials at the Drug Control Policy office are overseeing the project and will conduct the agency evaluation. The parameters of the review will be similar to those handled by the U.S. Post Office and the U.S. Census.
The Drug Czar’s office, however, has not yet determined the criteria for the search. “We don’t want to force the issue of capabilities yet; it’s too early to define exactly what we want,” Maple said. He added that his office would probably be looking for a full-service agency.