The Government has moved to stop agencies exploiting a shake-up of
Whitehall advertising by overcharging departments that break away from
the Central Office of Information.
Roger Freeman, the Cabinet minister responsible for the COI, has ruled
that departments that take up the option to run campaigns will have to
ensure their agency appointments are approved by the independent
Advisory Committee on Advertising. The body already supervises the
selection of agencies working on COI campaigns.
Departments that break away from the COI will also have the performance
of their agencies monitored by the ACA, in the same way it monitors work
from COI shops.
The move reflects the Government’s determination to obtain maximum value
for money from its pounds 63 million-a-year adspend. When the COI
monopoly over Whitehall advertising ended in January, some departmental
officials feared that agencies and media companies might ratchet up
prices if they escaped the COI’s ‘policing’.
Although no departments have yet left COI control, some have held
tentative talks with media shops and the new safeguards may encourage
them to go it alone.
In a letter to the ACA’s chairman, Brian Nicholson, Freeman said: ‘I
regard it as very important that the Government’s choice of advertising
agencies should have the benefit of the sort of expertise you give,
because of the large sums that can be involved in advertising contracts
and the potential for them to be publicly contentious.
‘Now that some advertising may be procured independently of the COI, I
regard it as important that the ACA should continue to fulfil its