ONDCP Speaks Out Against Anti-Booze Ad Lobby

Halfway Through 5-Year Campaign, Bill Would Change Strategy
WASHINGTON, D.C.-A congressional proposal to make the Office of National Drug Control Policy change its course by targeting underage alcohol use as part of its $1 billion anti-drug
campaign faced criticism from White House officials last week.
“Taking an existing, well-researched campaign like this and suddenly changing it will dilute its effectiveness,” said Alan Levitt, who manages the ONDCP’s $185 million per year campaign. “The issue is like General Motors having an advertising budget for Cadillacs, but they also want a new entry level car for kids and are forced to take the money from the same advertising budget.”
The campaign, now in the second year of a five-year effort, is overseen by Ogilvy & Mather, New York. “Over a year was spent testing strategies for keeping kids off drugs and you would want to do the same homework for alcohol rather than piggybacking it onto a campaign that is already up and running,” said Ogilvy executive group director Shona Seifert.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is also troubled. “How does a media budget of $145 million compete against the marketing muscle of about $3 billion spent annually for the alcohol advertising industry?” asked a representative.
An amendment to include alcohol in the effort has been attached to an appropriations bill by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif. “More than 67 percent of kids who start drinking before age 15 end up using illicit drugs,” Roybal-Allard said. “Conducting an anti-drug media campaign that does not address the linkage … seriously hampers the overall effectiveness of this effort.”
Roybal-Allard’s amendment has the support of the American Medical Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, among other lobby groups. “I am a taxpayer and my tax dollars are going toward a campaign that is not addressing the No. 1 abuse problem in this country,” said MADD National President Karolyn Nunnallee.