Editor's comment: COI 'help' could hinder banks

This week the COI's deputy chief executive, Peter Buchanan, offered his organisation's marketing services to our growing number of nationalised (or at least effectively government-owned) banks. Should they accept?

There is the view that day-to-day management should be left to the banks themselves, their marketers free to make the same decisions as they would have before their employer got itself in to the unfortunate, albeit not unique, position of needing state handouts.

To get out of this mess, these banks need to be able to behave like the independent and competitive financial organisations they will be up against. Any involvement with the COI would hinder competition.

The government does not want to be seen as controlling the banks. Until proven otherwise, banks should be trusted to put to use adspend that is appropriate to their current circumstances.

At the same time, there is a very real need to reassure taxpayers that no money is being squandered - particularly as advertising is often an easy target for this kind of accusation.

As our exclusive Nielsen data revealed last week, the COI is on track to become the UK's biggest advertiser. This means that it has considerable clout when it comes to media buying, giving the government clear cost-saving advantages.

There may be a compromise that will placate taxpayers and aid the banks at the same time. Instead of inheriting full responsibility, perhaps the COI could offer itself as a consultant, ensuring that these banks' media spends are proportionally audited, keeping its intervention to a minimum.

This way, when the banks eventually return to their former commercial status, there will not be the extra headache of untangling the marketing spend from the COI roster.

Lucy.Barrett@haymarket.com.

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