COI isn’t on its death-bed yet

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 Your information about staff quality and calibre is also way out of date.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.

Carol Fisher

Chief executive

Central Office of Information

London SE1

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here