Agencies accuse COI of DTLR pitch 'threats'

COI Communications was accused this week of trying to scupper a

breakaway by the Department of Transport, Local Government and the

Regions by warning agencies not to pitch for the business.



COI denied claims by agencies that it had issued veiled "threats" to

shops on its roster not to bid for the DTLR creative and media agency

work.



The DTLR has become the first major department to exercise its freedom

to handle its own agency pitches and media buying outside COI.



One agency chief executive said: "We were told by COI that we should be

careful about the DTLR. We took that to mean that we could be left off

the shortlists for future COI work if we pitched for the DTLR

business."



Other agencies on the roster said that COI had sent out similar

signals.



The source added: "I don't think threats will work. In the current

climate, agencies need every bit of business they can get."



A senior Whitehall source said: "COI is very worried. If DTLR breaks

away and it works, other departments could follow suit. If you take a

couple of bricks out of the wall, it could collapse."



However, there is no sign that other COI clients will go it alone. The

head of advertising in one department said: "This a one-off. Most people

think COI provides good value and does a good job."



Carol Fisher, COI's chief executive, declined to comment. Asked if COI

officials had been ringing round agencies, a COI spokeswoman replied:

"Absolutely not. We would not do that. We advise our agencies they are

free to pitch for what they want."



Agencies on the COI roster for DTLR include Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO,

which runs the "kill your speed" campaign, D'Arcy and Rainey Kelly

Campbell Roalfe/Y&R.



- Feature, p22.



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