After months of grumbling by lawmakers, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy will not renew Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide's controversial contract to handle its $150 million (€126m; £87m) advertising duties.
The ONDCP said it would not extend the WPP Group agency's deal at the next renewal option in September 2004. However, it denied the decision had anything to do with congressional pressure to remove O&M from the account.
The agency was controversially reappointed to the business last year after a scandal in which the shop was accused of altering timesheets and overcharging [WAMN: 05-Oct-00]. Although O&M refuted the allegations, pleading unfamiliarity with government accounting procedures, it eventually settled the matter with the Justice Department at a cost of $1.8m.
Since its reappointment, the agency has faced criticism in Congress. Earlier this month, senators introduced a bill containing language that would bar O&M from working on the business [WAMN: 07-Nov-03].
But the ONDCP claims its reason for not renewing the contract is that it wants to introduce a new, performance-based arrangement in line with other areas of the Bush administration. Indeed, it praised Ogilvy's work, which it believes has helped tackle teen drug use.
"The campaign has gone through a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but recently has had some key indicators of success," said the ONDCP's Tom Riley. "While Ogilvy has done good work and produced powerful creative, we are making an effort to improve transparency and performance."
O&M will be allowed to bid for the new contract when it is put out to tender.
Data sourced from: AdWeek.com; additional content by WARC staff