Senate slams Ogilvy reappointment to US anti-drugs campaign

NEW YORK - The US Senate has reacted angrily to plans to retain Ogilvy & Mather as the advertising agency for the government's anti-drug campaign.

In response to the reappointment, and also to a report showing that the advertising programme has not been a success, a Senate appropriations committee panel has recommended that the budget for the programme be cut by 40%.

The senate committee could now slash funding for the anti-drugs programme from $180m (£116m) to $100m.

Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat, North Dakota, said that it caused him "great heartburn" that Ogilvy had been reappointed to the account. "This is a company that knowingly and willingly filed fraudulent billing invoices. I would not have selected them. I'm more than a little steamed about this," he said.

The agency has handled the work since 1998, but has been under investigation over allegations that staff working on the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy work had overbilled.

In February 2002, Ogilvy, part of the WPP Group, agreed to pay the US government $1.8m to settle the dispute. Ogilvy pitched against 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 for the work.

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