UK Government takes axe to COI – will anyone notice the difference?

Obviously the 287 people out of a head count of 705 in the Central Office of Information, the UK government’s advertising department, will do. So will media owners and agencies who’ve been happy to take the money from what last year became the UK’s biggest advertiser spending £232m.

But have all these increasingly expensive advertising campaigns done any good?

The acid test of COI ad money was always supposed to be the many high profile ‘don’t drink and drive’ campaigns which appeared to reduce the number of people killed on the roads. Although the consensus now seems to be that reducing the speed limit to 20mph from 30 in built-up areas would do far more.

Most of the COI’s recent surge in adspend has been more to do with the former Labour government (1997-2010) preaching about drinking too much, eating too much and looking after the environment than anything that was actually useful to people. So it’s probably right for David Cameron’s coalition government to reduce it to a few people in an office plus a cat.

COI boss Mark Lund, formerly of Delaney Lund Knox Warren, which has just managed to sell itself a second time to Interpublic to rescue Lowe London, might be wishing he’d stayed put.

But he says loyally that a “leaner COI” is in line with government strategy and what the nation needs.

The reality seems to be that the Government doesn’t think we need it at all. Although it might change its mind when the next election looms on the horizon.

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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.