NEWS: COI lobbies Whitehall to retain control of ads

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.

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

commission.



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

upheaval.’



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

very existence.



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