Anti-Drug Media Campaign:

ONDCP Met Most Mandates, but Evaluations of Impact Are Inconclusive

GGD/HEHS-00-153: Published: Jul 31, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 2000.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, focusing on: (1) whether ONDCP provided timely financial reports to Congress; (2) how funds for paid advertising were managed and disbursed; (3) whether ONDCP complied with certain statutory requirements regarding the obligation of funds; (4) what ONDCP has done to develop and implement guidelines for the Campaign in response to program requirements; (5) whether the evaluation designs for phases I, II, and III were appropriate and how well the phases I and II evaluations were implemented; and (6) how effective phases I and II of the Campaign were in influencing group awareness of different types of paid anti-drug media messages and drug attitudes.

GAO noted that: (1) in response to statutory financial reporting requirements and certain statutory spending restrictions, ONDCP generally provided timely financial reports to the appropriate Committees and complied with selected statutory spending restrictions imposed by Congress for fiscal years (FY) 1998 and 1999; (2) ONDCP had processes in place to monitor and approve all paid advertising expenditures before paying vendors and reporting to Congress; (3) ONDCP's success in meeting the congressionally mandated program requirements was mixed; (4) the match program, which was developed during phase I of the Campaign to meet the congressional requirement that ONDCP supplement existing public service announcements (PSA), resulted in over 265,000 pro bono or match PSAs; (5) due to the need to meet the Campaign's reach and frequency goals, ONDCP may not be able to meet the current congressional direction that it obtain a pro bono match as a part of each buy from every vendor; (6) contractor officials explained that some vendors were unwilling or financially unable to provide a match; (7) in some of these cases, it was necessary to make a purchase without the match so that ONDCP could meet the Campaign's reach and frequency goals in that market; (8) ONDCP did not develop a plan to secure private sector contributions; (9) ONDCP officials told GAO that they do not believe they will ever be able to attain the highest level of the congressionally mandated levels of contributions, which range from 40 to 100 percent of the annual Campaign appropriations for FY 1999 through FY 2002; (10) ONDCP developed policy and guidance prohibiting advertisements that feature political figures or partisan political purposes and established an advertisement review process but they had no internal controls requiring that these reviews be documented; (11) ONDCP's work with community anti-drug coalitions was limited in the first two phases of the Campaign; however, ONDCP and contractors planned and initiated numerous initiatives for phase III; (12) the results of the phases I and II evaluations regarding the Campaign's impact on youth, teen, and parent advertisement awareness and drug attitudes were inconclusive due to site selection problems, unknown parent response rates, low school response rates, and data analysis issues; (13) the 4-year phase III evaluation began in 1999, and its design appears promising; and (14) Ogilvy and Mather, the phase III advertising contractor, is to examine the impact of each media element, and the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information is to continue to collect data through the end of year 2000 on the volume of public contacts and publications distributed as supplemental measures of Campaign awareness/exposure.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve ONDCP's compliance with the statutory program requirements, the Director of ONDCP should direct the appropriate ONDCP or contractor staff to determine the extent to which matches do not occur because of efforts to achieve the Campaign's reach and frequency goals, maintain documentation of all purchases that do not result in a match, including why the vendor did not provide a match and why the purchase was made without a match. This information should be provided to Congress to assist in its assessment of the viability of the current congressional direction that ONDCP obtain a match from each seller of advertising time and space, given the Campaign's reach and frequency goals.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2000, ONDCP began maintaining documentation of all purchases that do not result in a match. ONDCP began providing this information to Congress in quarterly reports in November 2000 and also conveys the information through discussions with Congressional staff and through questions for the record.

    Recommendation: To improve ONDCP's compliance with the statutory program requirements, the Director of ONDCP should direct the appropriate ONDCP or contractor staff, after adequate research and consultation with experts, to provide information to Congress detailing the anticipated dollar value of all private-sector, nonmatch contributions to assist Congress in its assessment of the viability of the private-sector contributions goals and the dollar value ONDCP can be expected to obtain from the private sector.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ONDCP retained the services of a communications outreach and program contractor, Fleishman-Hillard, to assist with the private sector contributions component of the media campaign. In February 2002, ONDCP submitted a report to Congress on the program. The report included the results of an analysis of philanthropic and marketing trends in the present economy. These findings indicated that it is unrealistic to expect the generation of private sector donations equaling those required by Congress.

    Recommendation: To improve ONDCP's compliance with the statutory program requirements, the Director of ONDCP should direct the appropriate ONDCP or contractor staff to develop internal controls, in accordance with the Comptroller General's standards, to ensure that the reviews of new advertisements for political figures or partisan content are fully documented and available for examination.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ONDCP established an internal review mechanism, or worksheet, to address the recommendation that it develop internal controls to ensure that reviews of new advertisements for political figures or partisan content are fully documented. The Director of ONDCP approved the worksheet on September 20, 2000. The completed worksheets are retained by ONDCP's Office of Legal Counsel and are to be made available for review upon request. In September 2001, GAO reviewed samples of completed worksheets provided by ONDCP relating to ONDCP's review of new advertisements for political figures or partisan content.

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