As the new chief executive for the Central Office of Information,
Carol Fisher takes on the most formidable challenge of an already
eventful marketing career.
The body overseeing the Government’s advertising and PR is housed in a
barrack block-styled building in an unattractive area of London SE1.
Its location - and its generally modest pay cheques - do nothing to help
raise its staffers’ self-esteem.
Keeping up morale will have to be a high priority for Fisher as well as
subtle managerial issues like establishing a good working relationship
with the well-regarded Peter Buchanan, her director of advertising, who
was a candidate for her job.
Coming from a ’can do’ background of fast reaction times and short lines
of communication, the former CLT Radio, Grand Metropolitan and Holsten
senior marketer will find it difficult adapting to what is an outpost of
the Civil Service. What’s more, it is one that continually has to
justify its existence to sceptical ministers not entirely convinced that
it wouldn’t be cheaper and more efficient for government departments to
handle their own promotion.
The Health Education Authority, grand prix winner at last year’s IPA
Effectiveness Awards, is among those which have led the way in bypassing
the COI to work directly with an agency.
Fisher’s predecessor, Tony Douglas, the former DMB&B joint chairman,
signalled a change at the COI because he didn’t have a Civil Service
Douglas set the COI on a more aggressive marketing path and it is vital
that Fisher should be allowed to continue along the same route. For the
fact is that while some departments have the expertise to deal directly
with agencies - and resent paying the COI to manage their advertising
for them - by no means all do.
Not only does the COI still possess massive media buying clout but it
continues to be a repository of enormous advertising expertise which
commands the respect of agencies. It’s a partnership that produces some
of the world’s best public service advertising.
The COI has never been leaner and fitter. Fisher must ensure it stays