UK’s COI to publish agency fees for government ads

Which is the last thing ad agencies need as they face up to the likely cuts the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government is likely to impose on the hitherto generous Central Office of Information, the body that handles government ad spending.

Last year the COI spent £232m, making it by far the UK’s biggest advertiser, ahead of the likes of Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Sky.

Now the new regime has announced it will publish details of all government contracts worth over £25,000 (should be a weighty tome or possibly the world’s biggest website). This will presumably include agency fees and other income, such as payment by results.

The ructions this will cause will be fascinating to observe, particularly if payments to particular agencies for the same services differ. And the press will be on it straight away, conveniently forgetting that they are major advertisers in their own right too.

Of course the UK deficit stands at around £160bn with government expenditure around £640bn. So you could scrap the COI and all government advertising of any description without making much of a difference. Not that this will deter new chancellor George Osborne, who’s looking more vampire-like by the day.

COI ad expenditure will recover in time of course, in all likelihood in the run-up to the next election (supposedly in five years’ time) when the ruling party finds it irresistible to blow its own trumpet in the guise of informing the public.

But it won’t be bad news for quite everyone in London’s adland. M&C Saatchi, which was drafted in at the last minute in place of Euro RSCG to handle the bulk of the Tory campaign, can expect a thank you present or two.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.