COI takes a bow with £168m spend

The Central Office of Information (COI), the government’s on-notice marketing services provider, spent £168m on marketing in its penultimate financial year.

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According to the public body’s annual report, outlay fell 68% in the 12 months to 31 March 2011.

The sharp drop from the £531.5m spent in 2009/10 was due to the coalition’s freeze on all but essential marketing and advertising shortly after taking office. The total is a long way from the 2008/09 peak of £539.5m when the COI unseated Procter & Gamble to become the UK’s biggest advertiser.

The COI is to officially close on the 31 March 2012 when much of its procurement responsibilities will pass to the Cabinet Office. Marketing activity will now be developed and planned by Whitehall departments or, when related to government policy, through pan-departmental hubs.

In a foreword to the annual report, Emma Lochhead and Graham Hooper, acting joint chief executives since Mark Lund’s departure in May, paid tribute to the COI, which they claim has “become part of the UK’s collective consciousness”, as well as the Whitehall departments and agencies it worked with.

“As the organisation approaches closure, now is the right time to pay tribute to our clients, who have given us the opportunity to do such good work; our suppliers, who have striven so hard on our behalf; and lastly COI staff, who have worked so tirelessly to pioneer best practice, innovation and cost effectiveness for the taxpayer in the way in which citizens have been informed, engaged and influenced about the issues that matter.”

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