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ONDCP Won't Renew Ogilvy

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WASHINGTON, D.C. Following months of pressure from lawmakers to bar WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather from the national anti-drug media campaign, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said on Wednesday that it will not renew the New York shop's contract when it expires next September.

ONDCP representative Tom Riley said the decision was not made in response to lawmaker concerns, but rather to improve the campaign by requiring a performance-based contract. Riley said the campaign has shown progress in recent months based on studies showing a decline in drug use among teens.

"The campaign has gone through a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but recently has had some key indicators of success," Riley said. "This will make the campaign stronger in the future."

Ogilvy in New York declined comment.

Ogilvy was awarded a one-year contract with four renewal options in July 2002 after ONDCP put the account in review following questions over Ogilvy's billing practices. Ogilvy paid $1.8 million to settle civil charges.

On Nov. 14, the Senate introduced a bill reauthorizing the $150 million effort that would terminate Ogilvy's contract and give the Partnership for a Drug-Free America an equal say in formulating ad strategy. The Partnership coordinates creative on the account from a roster of about 40 agencies [Adweek Online, Nov. 5].

The bill, sponsored by Senators Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), also requires that 85 percent of the campaign's $145 million budget for next year be spent on media buys.

Grassley noted his concern about the campaign when the bill was introduced.

"I will be honest: I am still not convinced that this program makes the best possible use of drug-prevention dollars," Grassley said. "Almost everyone I've talked to believes our prevention efforts will be better with the campaign than without it, even if the evidence that the campaign makes a difference is questionable, at best. If the campaign is going to continue...I think it's important that it gets back to the parameters that were established when it was initially pitched to and authorized by Congress."