COI Communications, the Government's advertising body, has been
given an important vote of confidence by ministers as it seeks to
persuade Whitehall departments not to break away and run their own
After a detailed review, the Government has given COI another five-year
remit and rejected options including breaking up or privatising it. COI
only just survived its previous review but this year's probe concluded
that it had "performed very well".
However, COI still faces the threat of a breakaway by the Department of
Transport, Local Government and the Regions, which this week dismissed
speculation in Whitehall that it was getting cold feet about its plan to
run its own campaigns.
Officials, who believe they can save money by avoiding COI's 1.5 per
cent commission charge, are delighted with the response from agencies
and are now drawing up a shortlist. "The phones have been hot," one
The prospect of other departments following suit may be reduced by the
Government's praise for COI. Christopher Leslie, the cabinet office
minister, said: "It has provided value for money in its procurement,
project management and strategic consultancy services."
Leslie announced that COI's chief executive, Carol Fisher, would be
handed an enhanced role as the Government's chief adviser on marketing
communications and information campaigns. She will report to Alastair
Campbell, Tony Blair's director of communication and strategy.
The aim is to provide a "joined-up" approach to marketing campaigns,
making sure that different efforts do not conflict or compete with each
other. For example, mailshots from different departments targeting the
same audiences could be combined.
COI will also launch a programme of research on how the Government can
target difficult-to-reach audiences including ethnic minorities, the
disabled and the socially excluded.
In a blow to COI, its network of nine regional offices, which employ 100
of its 400 staff, are being transferred to the Government Information
and Communication Service.