The U.S. Congress is close to approving a $1 billion budget for a five-year anti-drug advertising campaign beginning in 1998.
Congress is expected to approve $178 million for 1998 and $195 million annually for the following four years in aggressive media spending, upping the ante considerably from the $150 million annual anti-drug campaign originally proposed by the Clinton administration [Adweek, Aug. 18].
Also last week, Porter/Novelli of Washington, D.C., was awarded a $1 million, 90-day contract to design a media plan and create the behemoth request for proposal for the effort.
The new budget numbers came out of a House and Senate Conference Committee last week and will likely be approved without much ado. The committee, however, attached stipulations to the appropriation giving Congress control over the project.
The White House Office of Drug Control Policy, or drug czar's office, must submit a plan to match the government's $1 billion with in-kind donations of airtime and space from broadcasters and media corporations.
The Senate committee also wants the White House to establish a way of measuring the success of the five-year initiative.
In addition, Congress wants assurances that the funds will supplement and not supplant current anti-drug efforts, and that none of the funds will be used for political purposes or feature elected officials.
Alan Levitt, senior adviser and chief of the education branch of the White House drug policy office, said that Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the drug czar, and his staff are still leaning toward using the Partnership for a Drug-Free America for much of the creative and using most of the funds for media time.
"Using the partnership is certainly [an option]. But a lot of new ads have to be developed and we don't know whether we will go to an ad agency for that," Levitt said. He would not comment on the stipulations put forth by Congress.
The drug czar's office wants to make its first major media buy after the first of the year. Levitt said it was not yet clear when a review for an agency or media buying firm would begin.