Pubdate: Mon, 20 May 2002
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Robert S. Weiner, Daniel Forbes
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)


The assertion in your May 14 article by the current drug czar, John P. 
Walters, that the anti-drug ad campaign has "flopped" is absurd. We have 
the data showing the tests that proved that the ads produced in the 
previous administration worked -- teens were 13% less likely to use drugs 
after seeing "Frying Pan," for example. If the current Drug Office isn't 
still testing their new ads, look within thyself . . . or go back to the 
ones we did that worked.

Youth drug use went way down, 34% in the last three years of then-Drug Czar 
McCaffrey's tenure, when the campaign was rolling. The campaign has been 
reaching 94% of the target audience of teens and parents seven times a 
week. Mr. Walters wants to slam so he can re-create -- or worse, dismantle 
- -- the program. It's simply not true that the last team failed. 
Unfortunately, that message has been his partisan proclivity since his 
statements before his confirmation, unlike Gen. McCaffrey, who capitalized 
on bipartisan and broad-reaching support.

Robert S. Weiner, Washington

(Mr. Weiner was director of public affairs, White House Office of National 
Drug Policy, May 1995 to August 2001).


Your article's statement that the government "hasn't paid for script 
development with taxpayer funds" is technically correct. But the networks 
recaptured about $22 million worth of advertising time owed the government 
in exchange for government approved and, in some cases, even 
government-vetted anti-drug plotlines in sitcoms and dramas. Thus, episodes 
of ER redeemed $1.4 million worth of time for NBC; Chicago Hope freed up 
some $500,000 worth of time for CBS; and episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 
redeemed $500,000 or more of ad time for Fox. A similar 
financial-credit-for-content paradigm operated at such prominent nonfiction 
magazines as U.S. News & World Report, Parade and USA Weekend. It also 
freed up more than $3 million in owed ad time for the hard-news outlet, 
Channel One, which claims an audience of eight million captive schoolchildren.

While your article states that children are the target, at times nearly 
half of the ad buy has been directed at adults, i.e., voters. In fact, the 
five-year, taxpayer-funded campaign was engendered in 1996 at a meeting 
convened by Gen. McCaffrey, responding to the passage of medical marijuana 
initiatives in California and Arizona nine days prior. As court documents 
indicate, White House officials, the then head of the DEA, representatives 
of the FBI, Justice, HHS and also the Partnership for a Drug-Free America 
discussed the need for a media campaign to thwart subsequent such initiatives.

Finally, that the ads flopped is no surprise. At the campaign's conception, 
the Partnership had been producing such ads for nearly a decade. It pointed 
to three pieces of research underlying the ads' supposed efficacy. But two 
of the academic papers had not achieved publication and, referring to such 
advertising, the author of the third told me, "You can't tell, based on the 
paper, that it actually works."

Daniel Forbes, New York
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