It has now been seven months since I was seduced by the delights of
Lambeth North and joined the COI. As you will imagine, it’s been a bit
Coming directly from a job in media, I realised that I hadn’t been a
significant client for a few years. Consequently, I was fascinated to
see what changes had been wrought in the intervening period.
How had agencies, media owners and other marketing suppliers improved
their acts to face increasing competition?
What initiatives had they come up with to improve customer service? How
had they reorganised to become more accountable, impress their clients
and show their commitment?
Ever the marketer, I have taken the view that spending time with my
clients is much more important than visiting agencies, so I invariably
get agency reports second hand. Here are some ’highlights’ from the
period since January.
First there was the agency creative director who sat through a COI pitch
with his feet up on the table, picking his nose.
Then there was the agency whose creative chief decided he didn’t like
the endline on an ad just 24 hours before playout and tried to stop it
How about the agency chief who thought I wanted to meet him to praise
him for great work when actually I wanted to tell him the client wanted
to fire them? And how could I forget the agency CEO who arrived 30
minutes late for our lunch appointment and just caught me as I was
leaving the restaurant?
It goes on - there was the senior media owner who did not even
acknowledge the letter I sent him offering COI help at an industry
conference he was organising, and the direct marketing and research
companies still addressing mailers to my predecessor who left nearly 12
months ago. The list is discouragingly long.
On the other side, of course, we have the agencies who bust a gut under
the tightest of deadlines to produce world-beating work. The agencies of
all types who work with my team through weekends and nights to hit
deadlines, the media buying agencies and media owners who adopt a ’can
do’ attitude and don’t drip and moan when our client asks for the
umpteenth plan revision.
So how has the world of client service changed to suit the ever more
competitive environment? The answer is, it hasn’t really. The good are
seriously good and, surprise surprise, win more business.
And the bad? Well, we’ve got plenty more on our roster to choose
But if they can treat a client spending over pounds 100 million in the
ways in which I’ve just described, I shudder to think how the rest of
their clients’ fare. ’But we produce great creative,’ they’ll say as if
that makes up for everything else. It doesn’t, actually, and I’m amazed
that there are still people out there who think it does.
Carol Fisher is chief executive of the Central Office of Information.