Ogilvy to lose $150m anti-drug deal

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The Independent Online

Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency owned by Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP Group, is set to lose one of its most lucrative contracts, the $150m (£87m) a year youth anti-drug campaign in the US.

The White House drug office has told Ogilvy that its contract, which dates from 1999, will not be renewed when it ends in September. The contract will be put out to tender, but the White House is expected to make a significant change in the approach, which could leave Ogilvy with no chance of winning a fresh deal.

The Ogilvy contract has been mired in controversy since it emerged that employees had altered time sheets and billed for items not delivered. This prompted the White House to put the contract out for tender in 2001 but Ogilvy secured its position by agreeing to forego $1.8m in disputed billings.

In Congress, moves are afoot to wrestle control of the campaign away from the ad men and put it in the hands of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a business-and-marketing-backed group.

Some Members of Congress, such as Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, are concerned that not enough of the budget has been spend on actual advertising. Ogilvy has often concentrated on placing editorial in teen magazines, as well as on-line and on market research.

Another blow to Ogilvy has been the removal of Alan Levitt as director of the advertising campaign. The White House official was a strong supporter of the Ogilvy approach.

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