The Central Office of Information is launching a fight to keep control
of Government advertising after ministers decided to allow Whitehall
departments to run their own campaigns.
From 1 January, government departments will no longer be obliged to use
the COI for media buying, for choosing agencies or negotiating
However, the move could cause chaos for shops working for departments
that decide to go it alone on advertising. Because their existing
contracts are with the COI rather than the departments, any parts of
Whitehall breaking away from COI control will, to comply with European
Community law, have to re-advertise contracts. This could take months
and result in a flood of applications.
Peter Buchanan, the COI’s director of advertising, said: ‘The moment a
department divorces itself from the COI, current agency arrangements
would become null and void.’
Buchanan added that initial soundings showed that only one or two
departments would consider untying their advertising. They are
understood to include the Department of Health.
Buchanan added: ‘We are confident the majority of our clients would wish
to remain with the COI. Hopefully there will be the minimum of
COI bosses also plan to hold talks with officials in departments to
remind them of the benefits of using the COI.
The ‘nightmare scenario’ is that three or four Whitehall departments
will use their freedom to join forces with a private sector media buyer
to seek big discounts. In the long term, this could threaten the COI’s