While Peter Buchanan and I appreciate the unprecedented level of attention you gave us last week, we were amazed to read the first two lines of your News Analysis on the Central Office of Information “Image is a grave matter for the COI” (MW January 14) and at some of the assertions in the rest of the article.
We would like to correct a few misconceptions.
Firstly, to state that the COI has an image problem and is treated “with contempt” is not borne out by the facts.
It is now three years since the COI ceased to be the mandated supplier of advertising to government departments and yet the volume of government work being placed through the COI continues to grow, and is now at record levels.
There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the COI is treated with anything other than the greatest respect by its customers, Peter informed your reporter last week, we have worked recently on major projects for all of the departments you listed as making “little use” of us – the euro preparation for the Treasury and climate change for the DETR, for example.
We have also been working closely on major marketing consultancy projects for, among others, the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office, and the Employment Service. Your information about staff quality and calibre is also way out of date.
Far from being an elephants’ graveyard for civil servants waiting for their pension, the average age of the staff in Peter’s advertising division in 1996 when Tony Douglas arrived was 36, and the majority were not lifetime civil servants, but marketing and advertising professionals from such companies as Barclays Bank, J Walter Thompson and Saatchi & Saatchi.
Finally, as the new chief executive, can I just confirm that far from characterising my new role as “unenviable”, in fact the reaction from the advertising and marketing community has been completely the opposite.
Without exception, all of the many letters and calls I have received have congratulated me for landing one of the biggest and most fascinating roles in our industry.
Central Office of Information