The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is talking to shops about taking over its five-year, $1 billion anti-drug media campaign, sources said.
The search, along with the preparation of a new RFP, comes after a government report that said ONDCP's lead shop, Ogilvy & Mather, overbilled the client. Ogilvy then became the subject of a federal probe by the Department of Justice to determine if the agency committed any criminal and civil violations [Adweek, July 2].
At issue is whether Ogilvy committed fraud when some of its employees added hours to their time sheets for the campaign, according to sources and the report by the Government Accounting Office.
ONDCP, which is also researching how much it will cost to switch agencies, said it will decide whether to fire Ogilvy within the next two weeks. "It is a very difficult decision," said Alan Levitt, ONDCP's program manager for the media campaign. "We have to look at what steps [Ogilvy] has taken to correct the situation."
Since Ogilvy's contract has annual renewal options, with the current one up in January, ONDCP must issue an RFP in early September to meet the deadline.
Meanwhile, political pressure to fire Ogilvy is mounting. Last week, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., sent a letter to President George Bush "to urge immediate suspension" of Ogilvy's contract. "Why is the ONDCP ... continuing to do business with Ogilvy & Mather?" Barr wrote. "It is unconscionable that taxpayer dollars-which will ultimately reach the billion-dollar range-are still being spent on a contract rife with such problems."
Ogilvy has since revamped its bill ing system, which was recently certified by the government, and said it will continue working with ONDCP.
"I don't think we're going to be fired," said Paul Clark, an Ogilvy representative. "Nobody disputes that the contract was well-serviced and that more value was received than the contract called for."