Mark Lund's planned departure from the COI is, of course, just the latest piece of news to come out of Hercules House.
It all adds to a sense of an organisation in flux. We've been a critical friend to the COI over the years -noting the value it brings, but also noting the problems it struggles with.
Our submission to the Cabinet Office consultation on its future didn't pull its punches. We argued:
1. The COI needs fundamental reform
2. Millions of pounds have been wasted on ineffectual Government advertising -often little more than vanity projects
3. It needs to embrace a shift towards PR and away from advertising
4. The US Advertising Council model may well be the wrong one
Our Executive Summary's here:
We agree with the Government's general premise that the way it handles communications needs to change; and that the COI is ripe for fundamental reform. Our experience both of central Departments and of the COI convinces us that significant improvement is possible.
Indeed, we believe that this review should be root-and-branch, in order both to enhance the Government's legitimate communications needs, and to deliver improved taxpayer value for money and return on investment.
The COI needs to be made smaller, less bureaucratic, more business-friendly and more business-savvy. It also needs to be more authoritative within central Government Departments and other public sector communication operations, and to help raise the standards of the weaker-performing operations to those of the best.
We further agree with the Government's proposal that it should pursue a greater use of non-paid-for channels -again both by way of producing greater cost efficiencies, and in order to improve the efficacy of its communications activity. We believe that Governments have gradually become mesmerised by the attraction of advertising, lavishing increasingly large amounts of money upon it, while failing to evaluate its value. Quite simply, millions of Pounds are wasted on advertising ever year.
We support the creation of a cross-industry body, bringing together the professional representatives and largest commercial players in the marketing communications industry. There is a clear need for greater engagement between the public and private sectors, and such a body could be extremely useful in facilitating this.
We are convinced that such a body must be genuinely representative of the whole industry, and not be dominated by advertising interests. We are therefore concerned by the explicit reference to the US Ad Council which, as the name suggests, is not as broad-based as we would expect a UK cross-industry body to be.
We believe that the COI must be central to the Government's stated communications aims. It must also, however, receive strong and clear guidance from the Cabinet Office, and undergo radical reform if it is to achieve the Government's goals.
And here's our full submission.