Blair Recruits COI Chief to ‘Kitchen Cabinet’

06 February 2002

Prime minister Tony Blair’s controversial ‘kitchen cabinet’ [an inner sanctum of unelected advisors] has recruited Carol Fisher, chief executive of COI Communications, the administrative interface between the British government and its official advertising and marketing agencies.

Reporting to Alastair Campbell, Blair’s first lieutenant (and, some believe, Svengali), Fisher will advise on marketing matters with special reference to cost-curtailment and improved effectiveness.

She assumes the new post of chief adviser on marketing communications as of April. Wisely in view of the internecine warfare rampant in Whitehall, she has not given up the day job but was coy as to whether she would receive an additional salary for her new responsibilities.

Explains Fisher: “For years the government's press advertising has some degree of co-ordination but marketing and paid-for publicity has never had a mechanism in place to do this. I will take an overview of all the major campaigns and help Whitehall and Number 10 [the prime minister’s office] look at the totality - the overlaps and the messages that negate each other.”

Her new job is not simply wielding the cost-machete, she insists. “It’s not just about cutting costs but making sure the communications are at their most effective. It's not necessarily about savings but I think there will be some. Ultimately I will be looking for better value.”

The Blair administration is currently ultra sensitive about government adspend following the revelation that it shelled-out more on advertising in 2001 – an election year – than the UK’s largest advertiser, Procter & Gamble.

Fisher will mastermind a range of cross-departmental research projects, among them how the government can best convey its message to disabled people, pensioners and ethnic minorities.

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