Little wonder that agencies like to flaunt their membership of COI
Communications' "club". It's a badge that enhances the respectability
and status of the major players while marking an important rite of
passage for the industry wannabes.
Little wonder also that the outcome of COI's roster review is always
eagerly awaited. Mostly because it has become a thermometer, pinpointing
who's hot and who's not with a body that has proved a shrewd judge of
agencies despite its civil service roots.
Perhaps the most striking feature of COI's review is the trend towards
polarisation. COI seems to have taken its cue from other big advertisers
in combining the high comfort factor of big agencies with a little
creative risk-taking from the likes of Fallon and Mother.
More curious is the dropping of TBWA/London which, on the face of it,
seems to have been treated rather harshly in order to make COI appear
whiter than white. If COI was happy to share Labour's agency for a
considerable period up to and beyond the general election, why not now?
Other changes seem to bear out the contention that to win and sustain a
place on the COI roster, you need to be big and well-resourced - D'Arcy,
in particular, springs to mind - or small but with plenty of creative
Clearly, the most vulnerable are the middle rankers, notably Bates UK,
which will no longer be considered for above-the-line work, and CDP,
which regained its place on the COI roster in the late 90s but has since
struggled to win any meaningful assignments.
Welcome then to the club's newest arrivals who, if past experience is
any judge, will probably find membership to be a mixed blessing. In
their favour is the fact that COI is a good client, whose presence on an
agency list can act as a magnet for other advertisers. It's well
organised, its payments are, if not especially generous, fair and
It issues clear, comprehensive briefs to agencies and doesn't set
Moreover, many COI assignments not only provide agencies with the
opportunity to stretch themselves creatively but to play a part in
improving society's well-being, whether it's an anti-drink-drive
campaign or the promotion of tax credit for less well-off families.
True, COI can be bureaucratic and the work of its roster agencies can
fall victim to capricious ministers. But with recession looming, the
industry must wish it had more clients such as the "Ministry of