Networks Balk at Pot Spots

WASHINGTON — The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s biggest anti-marijuana initiative is already stirring controversy, even before its launches this week.

One network has rejected two ads for offensive language, and a second has imposed time restrictions on boundary-pushing spots that link pot smoking to violence and date rape.

Two 30-second ads by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, featuring the tag, “Responsibility is a bitch,” were turned down by ABC. The network accepted a version without the profanity, sources said. ABC declined comment.

A CBS rep said the spots were being evaluated. NBC has restricted the spots to airing after 9 p.m. “We realize there is a substantially larger younger audience from 8 to 9 p.m. where people might find it inappropriate,” said Alan Wurtzel, NBC president of research and standards. “Earlier than 9 p.m., we don’t want the language in there.”

Said Ogilvy ecd Chris Wall: “We knew it was a controversial thing, and even if ONDCP approved, there might be network issues.”

The commercials, “Stacey” and “Dan,” trace a marijuana purchase to a horrible end. Copy reads, “This is Stacey. This is the dime bag that Stacey bought. This is the dealer who sold the dime bag that Stacey bought. This is the supplier who smuggled the pot to the dealer who sold the dime bag that Stacey bought. This is Carla hit by a stray bullet from Stacey’s supplier and paralyzed for life.” Tagline: “Responsibility is a bitch, isn’t it, Stacey?”

In “Dan,” the purchase is traced to a drug cartel and an innocent family is shot.

ONDCP rep Jennifer de Vallance said Ogilvy made several versions of the ads in case of network rejection. Meanwhile, ABC has ruled that a date-rape-themed spot by Leo Burnett in Chicago can air only after 10 p.m. because of its sexual content, sources said.

Burnett created four spots through the Partnership for a Drug-Free America’s pro-bono process. In “Couple,” a teen girl at a party gets high in episodic shots. When she is incapacitated, a guy reaches for the buttons on her blouse. The tag is, “Marijuana: Harmless?”

Burnett referred calls to the client. A Partnership rep said the ads tested “superbly” and the results will be shared with the networks to address any concerns.