EDITORIAL: The COI club offers agencies security

Little wonder that agencies like to flaunt their membership of COI

Communications' "club". It's a badge that enhances the respectability

and status of the major players while marking an important rite of

passage for the industry wannabes.

Little wonder also that the outcome of COI's roster review is always

eagerly awaited. Mostly because it has become a thermometer, pinpointing

who's hot and who's not with a body that has proved a shrewd judge of

agencies despite its civil service roots.

Perhaps the most striking feature of COI's review is the trend towards

polarisation. COI seems to have taken its cue from other big advertisers

in combining the high comfort factor of big agencies with a little

creative risk-taking from the likes of Fallon and Mother.

More curious is the dropping of TBWA/London which, on the face of it,

seems to have been treated rather harshly in order to make COI appear

whiter than white. If COI was happy to share Labour's agency for a

considerable period up to and beyond the general election, why not now?

Other changes seem to bear out the contention that to win and sustain a

place on the COI roster, you need to be big and well-resourced - D'Arcy,

in particular, springs to mind - or small but with plenty of creative


Clearly, the most vulnerable are the middle rankers, notably Bates UK,

which will no longer be considered for above-the-line work, and CDP,

which regained its place on the COI roster in the late 90s but has since

struggled to win any meaningful assignments.

Welcome then to the club's newest arrivals who, if past experience is

any judge, will probably find membership to be a mixed blessing. In

their favour is the fact that COI is a good client, whose presence on an

agency list can act as a magnet for other advertisers. It's well

organised, its payments are, if not especially generous, fair and


It issues clear, comprehensive briefs to agencies and doesn't set

unrealistic timescales.

Moreover, many COI assignments not only provide agencies with the

opportunity to stretch themselves creatively but to play a part in

improving society's well-being, whether it's an anti-drink-drive

campaign or the promotion of tax credit for less well-off families.

True, COI can be bureaucratic and the work of its roster agencies can

fall victim to capricious ministers. But with recession looming, the

industry must wish it had more clients such as the "Ministry of