Ogilvy retains US anti-drugs account despite billings scandal

NEW YORK - Ogilvy & Mather has held on to the US government's $150m (£98m) anti-drug advertising account despite being involved in a damaging criminal investigation over the way it has billed the account.

In February 2002, Ogilvy, part of the WPP Group, agreed to pay the US government $1.8m (£1.2m) to settle a dispute arising over accusations that Ogilvy staff had over-billed for their time. Later that month, a criminal investigation into the alleged time-sheet alterations was launched.

The scandal put the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is said to be happy with the way Ogilvy has sold the anti-drugs message, under pressure to review its advertising work.

Ogilvy saw off competition from agencies including Foote, Cone & Belding and McCann-Erickson, both part of the Interpublic Group of Companies; Bates Worldwide, owned by Cordiant Communications; and Saatchi & Saatchi, part of Publicis Groupe.

The agency's most recent work was a campaign that linked the use of drugs with funding to terrorism. It was directed by the notorious British director Tony Kaye.

Ogilvy did not admit wrongdoing but has introduced new accounting procedures in the wake of the scandal.

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