Editorial: COI has special place as adland's favourite client

Few clients have held the ad industry's respect, admiration and affection for as long as the Central Office of Information has during the 60 years of its life.

Talk to the heads of COI roster agencies and the reaction is almost always the same - high regard for the professionalism of its top people and the scrupulously fair way it conducts its business.

Even the odd grumble about bureaucracy or a delayed decision is half-hearted, a throwback to the days when taking potshots at COI was good sport for an industry that saw itself as hip, cool - a world away from the Men from the Ministry.

In reality, it has been many years since COI displayed a bowler hat and pinstripe mentality. Not only has it been the catalyst for some of the best creative work ever seen in the UK, but it has also never been afraid to augment its roster with bright and eager young agencies. What is more, COI is not inhibited by the creative conservatism often found in advertisers of a similar size.

On the contrary, it has been known to push agencies to be more adventurous.

This is because COI enjoys a unique freedom. It has no commercial competition and is not selling in the accepted sense. Its purpose is to make people aware of their rights and obligations and, in doing so, improve everybody's quality of life. As a result, the organisation has made an enduring impact on the industry. As the feature on page 22 illustrates, it has kept the creative bar high while stimulating its agencies to think in a more integrated way.

Above all, though, it has made adland feel good about itself. For years, the business has justified its existence by trying to show how its activities help keep people in jobs and help consumers make informed choices. Advertising, it is argued, is no black art and cannot sell what no-one wants to buy. While all this is undoubtedly true, collective insecurity is never far beneath the surface of an industry that still frets about seeming shallow and self-serving. COI gives the business a sense of worth and purpose. What value can be put on a campaign that prevents children being killed by speeding drivers or gets more police on the streets? Happy birthday, COI. And many more of them.

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