Government gives COI its vote of confidence

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

campaigns.



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

source said.



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.



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