Ogilvy Faces Anti-Drug Challenge in Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. Ogilvy & Mather’s contract for the White House’s anti-drug media campaign would be terminated and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America given an equal say in formulating ad strategy, according to language in a draft Senate bill reauthorizing the $150 million effort. That bill is expected to be introduced this week.

The measure, to be sponsored by Senators Joseph Biden (D-Del.); Charles Grassley (R-Iowa); and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), calls for terminating Ogilvy’s contract within 90 days of the bill’s passage or exercising an option not to renew the contract.

WPP Group’s Ogilvy in New York was awarded a one-year contract with four renewal options in July 2002 after the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy put the account in review following questions over Ogilvy’s billing practices. Ogilvy paid $1.8 million to settle civil charges.

The draft reads, in part: “A corporation, partnership or individual shall not be considered a bidder for the contract if within the previous 10 year period…settled any federal, civil or potential proceeding instituted by the United States.”

If passed by Congress, the bill would for the first time give the Partnership for a Drug-Free America equal control over the campaign’s strategy. The Partnership coordinates pro-bono creative on the account from a roster of about 40 agencies. “In general, the Director in consultation with the Partnership shall determine overall purposes and strategy of the campaign,” the language says.

The Senate’s reauthorization bill also calls for a one-year General Accounting Office audit to assess campaign strategy and the coordination of effort between the Partnership and ONDCP. The bill must be reconciled with a separate version passed by the House earlier this year.