Anti-Drug Media Campaign:

An Array of Services Was Provided, but Most Funds Were Committed to Buying Media Time and Space

GAO-05-175: Published: Mar 31, 2005. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 2005.

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Laurie E. Ekstrand
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The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was required by the Drug Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 (21 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) to conduct a national media campaign to reduce and prevent drug use among America's youth. Since 1998, Congress has appropriated over $1 billion for the media campaign. However, a 2003 report by the Senate Committee on Appropriations expressed some concerns about the media campaign, including concern that a large portion of the campaign's budget had been used for consulting services rather than the direct purchase of media time and space. The report, therefore, directed GAO to review the use of consultants to support the media campaign. This report describes the services provided by consultants (defined by GAO as the prime contractors and their subcontractors) in support of the media campaign, along with the estimated award amounts for these services.

Our analysis of contracts covering ONDCP's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign from fiscal years 2002 through 2004 revealed that four contractors provided many of the services required to execute the campaign. These four prime contractors provided an array of services that fell within three broad categories: (1) advertising, (2) public communications and outreach, and (3) evaluation services to gauge the campaign's effectiveness. The prime contractors also acquired additional specialized expertise from 102 subcontractors. Some of the specific tasks performed by the contractors and their subcontractors included conducting qualitative and quantitative research for advertising creation, working with the entertainment industry to portray the negative consequences of drug use in television and movies, and conducting an evaluation intended to measure the effectiveness of the media campaign. Based on our analysis of contracts covering fiscal years 2002 through 2004, we estimated that $520 million was awarded to the four prime contractors, of which an estimated $373 million--72 percent--was committed to purchasing media time and space for campaign advertisements. The remaining $147 million--28 percent--was for the services provided by the prime contractors. Contractors, in turn, awarded $14 million of that amount to their subcontractors.

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