Pending congressional approval, the federal government will launch an agency review this fall for an unprecedented five-year, $150 million 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 Drug Control Policy office. The review will begin with request for proposals as soon as the funds are appropriated by Congress.
The initiative will mark the first time the federal government will purchase airtime to run 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 outlets to donate ad space. By paying for airtime, the government hopes to more effectively reach a larger percentage of its target market.
"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.
The campaign will be aimed primarily at the country's youth. Drug abuse among teenagers has risen alarmingly in the last five years, compared to a decline in drug use among adults.
Officials at the White House Office of Drug Control Policy are overseeing the project and will run the agency evaluation. "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, but it is unclear whether the shop would buy media or produce the ads.
The ad budget has not yet been approved by Congress, but sources said the appropriation is all but a done deal: The House has earmarked the full $150 million, while the Senate has approved $110 million so far. At press time, both houses were in conference and the administration still held out some hope that it would get the full $175 million it originally requested.