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Study Faults White House Anti-Drug Ads

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WASHINGTON -- A study commissioned by the National Institute on Drug Abuse
(NIDA) has concluded that the advertising program of the White House
anti-drug office has had little impact on its primary target: America's
teenagers.

Conducted jointly by the Annenberg School of Communications at the
University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Westat, a 30-year-old
research firm in Rockville, Md., the analysis concluded that "there is
little evidence of direct favorable [advertising] campaign effects on
youth."

Officials of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
(ONDCP) were not immediately available for comment today because of the
Martin Luther King Day holiday, which has closed most federal offices.

In the past ONDCP officials have questioned previous NIDA evaluations,
claiming they survey a far smaller number of youths than a long-running
University of Michigan "Monitoring the Future" survey that has reported
opposite results.

The latest release of the Monitoring the Future results, on Dec. 19,
showed an 11% decline in drug use by eighth, 10th and 12th graders over
the past two years. John P. Walters, the White House "drug czar" and Tom
Hedrick, founding director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America,
attributed some of those results to the ad campaign.

$150 million The drug office spends $150 million a year on advertising,
and those expenditures have been the subject of ongoing controversy in
Congress.

The NIDA report covers the advertising campaign's start in September 1999
through June 2003.

Entitled "Evaluation of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign: 2003
Report of Findings," the report issued by NIDA notes that the advertising
campaigns have had a "favorable effect" on parents but not on the
children, whose illicit drug use is the focus of the ads.

Marijuana emphasis The White House ad campaign, though aimed at all
illicit drug use, intensified its focus on marijuana in the fall of 2002.

However, the report said that investigators found that "youth who were
more exposed to [the anti-drug advertising campaign] messages are no more
likely to hold favorable beliefs or intentions about marijuana than are
youth less exposed to those messages."

NIDA, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has been
the agency charged with officially evaluating the White House's anti-drug
ad campaigns for years.

WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, handles the drug office advertising
account, but most ads come from the Partnership. A Partnership spokesman
did not return calls.

Ogilvy & Mather While the drug office has enjoyed some strong
congressional support, it also has strong critics on Capitol Hill who have
questioned both the ads effectiveness and the use of Ogilvy, which earlier
settled for $1.8 million civil charges that it overbilled the government
for its ad work on the anti-drug account. Two former Ogilvy officials were
recently indicted on charges related to those disputed billings.



Author: Ira Teinowitz
Source: Advertising Age
Contact: editor@adage.com
Website: Ad Age Homepage - AdAge
Pubdate: Monday, January 19, 2004
 
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