Government axes COI ad agency- 400 advertising jobs at risk


The Government has shut down its iconic Central Office of Information (COI) ad agency arm, putting an estimated 400 advertising jobs at risk. Set up in 1946, the COI commissions public information films and government advertising and publicity campaigns, and was the agency behind the memroable fire safety TV ad "Charley says".

The decision comes after a review by Matt Tee, former permanent secretary for government communications, which recommended replacing it with a new communications centre. However, the government has not taken up Tee's plan to replace the COI with a new body, the Government Communications Centre, with a wider remit and responsibility for keeping a tight reign on advertising and marketing spend. Instead the government intends to run advertising and marketing activity out of the Cabinet Office, hiring about 20 extra staff to complement existing communications teams. Tee had envisaged that the GCC would have a staff of 150.



The organisation appoints advertising agencies and handles media buying on behalf of most government departments. It also handles regional government news announcements from offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Plymouth.

Marketing budgets slashed, jobs axed

The bulk of the government's advertising spend - which last year topped £500m - was coordinated by the COI.

However, the Cabinet Office said it has cut spending on advertising and marketing by 68% to £168m in the past year.

Trade union Prospect said there had been no consultation or warning to staff about the likely redundancies.

The COI's London head office will bear the brunt of job cuts, the union has said.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “This Government has slashed unnecessary spending on communications. These changes are designed to save more money by cutting bureaucracy and reducing duplication.”

Campaigns such as health and recruitment to the Armed Forces would continue.

Prospect general secretary Paul Noon said: “This has come completely out of the blue. It makes no sense at all.Far from saving money, the cuts will leave most Government communications in the hands of media agencies who are certain to be more expensive than in-house professionals.”

The COI's closure is not likely to go down well among Britain's advertising agencies - even though the government insists it is about saving on administrative costs rather than slashing budgets even further.

Hamish Pringle, director general of ad agency trade body the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, said: "We can only hope that the new regime being put in place will never forget that the campaigns the COI, their clients in government and their agencies produced have saved many lives and saved millions in taxpayers' money."

He said the COI had "spent 65 years learning about how to use advertising and marketing communications to help achieve policy outcomes - let's hope this invaluable history does not become bunk".

Read the official government statement here:

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