Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, which has held the account since 1988, is caught in the middle as it runs a press and radio campaign advising the public on what action to take during the firefighters' strikes.
The agency is working for the DoT, which retained the fire campaign when responsibility for the fire service switched to the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, in May because his department did not have any advertising staff.
Following the DoT's decision to break away from COI, the fire campaign, which has had an annual budget of between £2 million and £3 million in recent years, no longer comes under COI's remit. COI officials are now seeking to regain control of it, arguing that the anomaly should be ended to enable the Government's advertising department to maximise its media buying power. The Cabinet Office, which is responsible for COI, may have to referee the dispute.
In a further setback for COI, Charles Skinner, who led the breakaway from COI as the DoT's head of marketing, has been promoted to the director of communications. This will strengthen his hand in his attempt to maintain his go-it-alone policy and makes a rapprochement with COI less likely.
Euro RSCG is keeping out of the row over the fire campaign, making it clear it is happy to work with both COI and the DoT.