The shortlisted consortiums comprise the Starcom and i-level partnership, pitching under the name Smile; a collaboration of Group M agencies called M4C; and the Aegis-owned Carat, which is pitching in alliance with its sister agency, the outdoor specialist Posterscope.
Pitches will be held in December and a result is expected early in the new year. COI said the successful group will take on all of its buying requirements from April 2010, for four years.
Peter Buchanan, the COI deputy chief executive, said: "We have worked hard to create a fully comprehensive brief, in order to give competing agencies the best possible start."
The pitch panel will include senior COI staff, as well as a representative from the Government Strategic Marketing Advisory Board and a member of the Government Heads of Marketing Group.