ONDCP Holds Bidders’ Conference With Contenders

WASHINGTON-Hiring a retired Navy officer and consultant familiar with federal-government contracts and accounting practices may explain why incumbent Ogilvy & Mather would seek to regain the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s $150 million antidrug media campaign.

Some sources said Ogilvy, New York, might still have a chance because ONDCP likes its work, and because government reviews are designed to be fair. Because ONDCP wants the bidding process to move quickly, shops with previous government experience are heavily favored.

But those factors do not take into account the will of Congress, or the appointment of a new drug czar. The appointment of John Walters to that post is pending full Senate approval. Ogilvy hired Robert Ravitz, a Norwalk, Conn.-based consultant, after questions first emerged about the shop’s billing practices, and before ONDCP decided to rebid its contract in August, sources said. Ravitz helped Ogilvy set up a billing system that would meet government standards.

A shop working on ONDCP’s account must create a new billing system because it must manage ONDCP’s partners and subcontractors. Ravitz was at ONDCP’s bidders’ conference last week, sitting next to David McConnaughey, an Ogilvy senior partner and management supervisor who is the shop’s liaison with its Washington client.

Sources said Ravitz has credibility within the Department of Navy, which is providing oversight on ONDCP’s campaign. The shop that wins the business will sign a contract directly with Navy. “When [Ogilvy] got in trouble, at some point they brought him in,” said a source. “He can help them understand how to work the contract.”

Ravitz, president of the New York Council, Navy League of the U.S., a national association of Navy veterans, worked with Campbell-Ewald on its successful bid for the Navy account, and with D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles in its current bid for the Department of Defense’s Joint Recruiting Advertising Program. A retired rear admiral, he is a former account executive at Grey, New York, where he managed the JRAP account.

–with Andrew McMains