White House anti-drug office embraces YouTube opportunities

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) recently began posting videos on the YouTube video Web site, in a first for a Cabinet-level agency.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) recently began posting videos on the YouTube video Web site, in a first for a Cabinet-level agency.

Twelve ONDCP videos have been posted to date, mostly commercials developed as part of the group's "Above the Influence" anti-drug campaign, with some of the videos viewed more than 10,000 times by YouTube visitors.

Rafael Lemaitre, ONDCP deputy press secretary, noted that the Internet is creating dramatic changes in distribution of news and other information, leading all types of organizations - including typically conservative government entities - to think differently about how they communicate.

"Traditional structures about who has the power to communicate are being completely flipped around, with bloggers and [podcasters] having such influence," Lemaitre said. "We're at the point where public institutions have to evaluate how to remain effective in this new media environment."

The ONDC does not expect its videos to be the most popular on the Web site, said Lemaitre. The organization hopes that by uploading the videos - some of which had already been posted by others - it simply creates the opportunity for more people to see them than otherwise.

He added that posting videos on YouTube and elsewhere could help the ONDCP's search rankings for results that could have historically featured more pro-drug videos.

While making content more readily available on the Internet gives critics more opportunity for parody - especially on a third-party Web site like YouTube where people can take the video code and post it to their blogs, Lemaitre said the organizations was not at all worried by a lack of control.

"Frankly, those parodies are already taking place," Lemaitre said. "When you have successful advertising strategies and when you have a comic campaign, they're going to be parodied. How many times have MasterCard ads been parodied? It's sort of part of the nature of the Internet and what new technology offers."

In addition to posting video on YouTube as well as the Google video search site, ONDCP has also posted an official blog since February 2005 and regularly posts podcasts of speeches and commentary on its Web site.

Fleishman-Hillard oversees management of ONDCP's various Web sites. The agency has worked with the ONDCP for a number of years on its media and public outreach, including arranging sit-downs with editorial boards at entertainment magazines to encourage them to portray drug use in a more "balanced" way, said Fleishman-Hillard senior partner Bill Garber.

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