For any business rebuilding itself and looking to grow in very competitive markets, using advertising to attract new customers is really important. But some Co-op members are concerned about where our brand is advertised. They’ve asked us to think carefully about the media we support through our advertising investment. Until recently these concerns have mostly centred around three popular newspapers whose views some find disagreeable and damaging. More recently we’ve seen concerns raised about advertising on YouTube which risks our brand appearing alongside grossly inappropriate content, including extremist videos.

We intend to tackle both issues in a way that protects our brand, our members and our customers but also recognises the importance of a free press and the commercial importance of advertising – print and digital – to growing our membership and our businesses.

We don’t have all the answers but here’s what we are doing: 

Until we are satisfied that our digital advertising will only ever appear next to appropriate content, we have suspended paid advertising with YouTube. We’ve seen the ‘advertiser safeguards‘ Google has published and we’ll watch to see how these work before we decide whether or not to reinstate advertising with them.

When the Stop Funding Hate campaign appealed to us to stop advertising in a small number of newspapers we also took that request seriously. We launched an internal audit of our activity, analysed its payback, and talked to our members about it at a National Members’ Council meeting. It’s a less straight-forward issue. Many people buy these papers at the Co-op and some of them will be our members. Advertising in these papers also drives sales which are important to our businesses.

We know we can’t sit on the fence and in any case that’s not the Co-op Way. So we committed to do two things to reflect our values and support our business. Things that recognise the diversity of our members and customers, that don’t suppress the freedom of the press, which is a fundamental part of a democracy, that support the growth of our businesses, but crucially challenge those views expressed in print which we and many of our members believe are incompatible with our values of equality, solidarity, self-help and openness.

Firstly we decided to use our contacts with publishers at every level to make the case for change. To tell them how our members felt and why the stories they have published challenge the relationship we have with them. We’ve already had meetings with senior executives at the Daily Mail and The Sun, and the discussions will continue.

Secondly we decided to look at using our advertising in these titles to tell their millions of readers about some of the things our Co-op is doing to tackle issues that we feel strongly about, such as modern slavery or water poverty in Africa and promoting Fairtrade programmes in developing countries. If we want to campaign for change, we believe it is better to engage and challenge, than to walk away. And we will keep at it.

Finally, we also recognise that the speed at which technology is changing the advertising market means we can address a problem today only to see another emerge tomorrow. So, we are also extending the ongoing review of our advertising policies, which we kicked off earlier in the year, to look at all the platforms we use and others we don’t but perhaps could.

We know what we’re doing won’t satisfy everybody and we know we will have to watch closely to see if what we are doing has any impact. We believe, for now, it strikes the right balance between doing the right thing for those who need a voice and the right thing for our 4.3m members and our businesses.

Nick Crofts
President National Members’ Council

Join the conversation! 112 Comments

  1. Extremely disappointing. As a member I an extremely unhappy that you continue to pay our money to newspapers that incite hate… for that is what they do. You talk of a free press, but with that right comes responsibilities, it is not an unqualified right, and they must also have regard for the law of this land. We see again and again them retracting stories but it is too late, the damage is done. Inciting hatred as the Mail, Express and Sun do, particularly towards Muslims & immigrants, should be something that the Co-op doesn’t even have to think twice about if it it truly still holds its ethical beliefs. It is clear from this response that the sales generated are more important that inciting hatred in this country, and potentially leading to the further radicalisation of Muslims. How you can any longer claim to be an ethical company is beyond me. If you wish to attract these sorts of readers to your stores so desperately, go ahead. I don’t want to be in a building with people that support these awful headlines day after day, I’m tired of hearing such bigoted bile. You have lost my custom with this cowardly stance. #StopFundingHate

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    • And now we have their hideous outdated sexist coverage of two of our female politicians, objectifying women. Would you like to justify supporting that too to all your female and feminist customers and members?

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      • There is nothing wrong with the picture.For gods sake get a life

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      • Big mistake Co-op – you can see from the comments here how big a mistake this is. You might as well have just said ‘but advertising in these papers makes us loads of money so we don’t care what else they do’

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  2. Not nearly good enough. Triodos Bank start current bank accounts in April. Unless Co-op go much further than this with regard to advertising in Daily Mail, Sun and Daily Express, they can kiss goodbye to two customers here. You once shared my values. At present, you do not.

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  3. A hugely disappointing response. Hate-filled rhetoric such as that we see in press outlets like the Daily Mail is fundamentally damaging to our social fabric, and it is important to take a stance against it, rather than to enable it. Coop’s position is irresponsible and does not reflect the corporate values that that drew my support up to now. I think principles are as important as profit, and will henceforth take my business elsewhere. Very sorry there has not been a more positive and productive outcome.

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  4. This is not about ‘engaging and challenging’ it is about you spending the profits you make from my custom in poisonous, dangerous publications that promote hatred. We are Coop members, have banked with you for over 20 years and regularly do our shopping in my local store. It is sad that with this ‘fence sitting’ you will lose our custom.

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  5. The article says… “Many people buy these papers at the Co-op and some of them will be our members. Advertising in these papers also drives sales which are important to our businesses”. Those words simply say ‘our principles are for sale’. I would have expected more from you Coop!

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    • That was also my take on reading the blog post; despite the careful words commercial interest pips ethical stance. Speaks volumes.

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    • Exactly, you hit the nail on the head here. The Co-Op has made a mistake here. Some of the Co-Op customers might buy these papers, but I am pretty sure most of their customers do not support these views. Let them review their sales results at the end of the month, and let’s see if they put two and two together.

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  6. I’m confused by this idea of ‘suppressing press freedom’. Withdrawing advertising from publications that spread hate is not suppressing press freedom. It’s just moving your spend elsewhere, like you have done with You Tube.

    Unless you believe in bashing foreigners, gays and ethnic minorities as the likes of the Daily Mail do, then the decision has to be to withdraw funding of those views. Our democracy is at threat from the power of these publications, who have been presenting ‘alternative facts’ for decades. We have reached a point where the views of these newspapers, through their clever presentation of some information and not others, has squeezed our the real situation, and framed public debate in hate.

    The most dangerous thing is they present opinion as fact. Differing opinions are fine and good. Debate is good. But that’s different from presenting it as fact. News journalism should be there to inform, not persuade.

    It’s time to stop. Do the Right Thing. Protect Our democracy. Protect pluralism. Protect debate. Protect the truth.

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    • Can you confirm that in your discussions with certain papers you have highlighted particular stories that the Co-Op feels uncomfortable with, and whether you have given any of these papers any warnings that if they do not moderate their behaviour you will withdraw advertising.
      Can you also confirm whether your advertising contracts with the papers allow you to withdraw at nil cost at short notice, or whether you are locked into a long term arrangement.
      Can you also confirm what your research indicates about the numbers of Co-op members who read those newspapers.

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  7. Co-op people this isn’t good enough. Given that the Daily Mail and Daily Express write racist, hateful inaccurate nonsense why are you selling it in your shops let alone advertising in these so-called newspapers? It’s been proved in law courts over and over again that a large proportion of what they publish is inaccurate and libelous. Please stop advertising in them NOW.

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  8. So basically, what some people are posting to YouTube is unacceptable for your brand but what is published in the dailymail is acceptable for your brand.

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  9. As others have said, a very disappointing response. Only through removing their funding by ending advertising with them can you prompt these publications to change. As long as they receive your (our) money then they have no impetus to end their hate mongering. The CoOp should take a firm stance on this, in keeping with it’s stated ethical agenda, and immediately end all association with these papers.

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  10. Not good enough. Won’t be shopping at Coop again for the foreseeable.

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  11. So in a nutshell: We don’t agree with the sort of hate these publications put out – but hate sells. If we want to sell our products then we need to piggyback on that ever popular hate, but pretend that don’t really agree with it.

    You don’t look good here. Without an ethical policy the co-op is a very average supermarket with an increasingly ropey looking financial services offering. If you are paying money to people whipping up hatred just because they have a large readership then you can’t claim to have an ethical policy and might as well just pack it in.

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  12. The reasons you give for pulling advertising from YouTube apply completely to the Daily Mail and The Sun. The only reason you won’t pull advertising from these hideously racist papers, but will from YouTube, is because YouTube doesn’t generate as much advertising revenue. Massively shameful for an ‘ethical’ company, such as the Co-op claims to be, to put profit before values. As as member, I am deeply disappointed and will stop shopping at Co-op stores until you make the right decision not to advertise in such hateful papers.

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  13. So not really much of a change then? I doubt very much that dialogue with the likes of Mail/Sun/Express will amount to anything – more likely they will laugh it off. If the Co-op are going to continue to fund hate speech then there are two more customers they are going to lose here.

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  14. I am most distressed that this ethical company with a fine history is putting profit before values. I will broadcast this issue wherever possible and will stop shopping at the coop until you show responsibility and retract.

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  15. Nope. Hatred as a business plan is despicable and I can and will shop elsewhere. That also goes for banking and insurance.

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  16. The daily mail has peddled lies an hatred for over a hundred years. I very much doubt it’s going to stop because of a polite chat with the coop. Stop funding hate an show that the coop brand will not support hatred an bigotry of any kind.

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  17. I usually go out of my way to shop at the Co-op because it is an ethical company.
    Clearly I was wrong in this belief and the Co-op is no better than anywhere else.
    Oh well, saves me a longer walk and we can buy cheaper petrol. Bye bye Co-op. I do feel cheated out of all the money I’ve spent with you believing something that was nothing more than a marketing ploy. Won’t be back any time soon.

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  18. A disappointing missed opportunity. I would like to say that I will take my business elsewhere but since every other supermarket group advertises in these racist, hateful newspapers I’m not sure what difference it would make.
    In short, you had (and still have) a chance to truly differentiate the Co-Op from your competitors. Why not take that chance?

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  19. As a member, I’m utterly let down. I used to think Co-op was an ethical organisation. Hardly looks like it now. If Co-op will not ensure that my money is not spent on funding hateful speech, then I shall have to ensure this myself, by ceasing to shop there.

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  20. This is a very poor reflection of the Co-op as an (allegedly) progressive organisation. Engaging the Sun and Daily Mail by paying to advertise in their papers will not challenge them in any way, shape or form. Disappointing.

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  21. If anything having “discussions” with newspapers is more inappropriate than just withdrawing your advertising and saying that you do now want to be associated with them until they have a track record that is not completely against our ethics.

    Advertising in the Sun/Express/Mail at all is funding them and their spreading of hatred with all your customers and members paying. I would be OK with you stopping selling those papers altogether but that isn’t what StopFundingHate is asking for and selling them is less of a problem because I am not paying (only those that actually want them are paying).

    Please change and withdraw all advertising from these companies that do not align with our ethics, there are other places to advertise that do not harm the country and do not harm the Co-op brand.

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  22. I was going to change my bank to bank with the Co-op on the understanding that they are an ethical bank. On the basis of this response, I will not be doing so. I would not expect an ethical bank to align itself with hate in any way.

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    • You could try Triodos who are setting up UK current accounts from April. They already doing savings etc. They are an ethical bank. I and my partner will be switching if the current Co-op response remains as it currently is and we will advise others to do the same.

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  23. Well done on the review of advertising!!!

    Andrew reed member no 633174913213017553

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  24. “We know we can’t sit on the fence and in any case that’s not the Co-op Way”

    Looks extremely fence-sitty to me.

    ‘Freedom of the press’ is not supporting a tiny group of billionaires to peddle their racist filth and the Co-op should have no part in it.

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  25. So what about the express you mention the mail and sun but not the express, sounds like a cop out

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  26. It is those papers who are The Enemies of the People. . I have banked at the Coop for more than 60 years and, although live in Sydney, I still maintain my account. It was an ethical, not- for -profit bank where left- of -centre people kept their money (not much of it). Now it is walking away from that. Shame! In fact the bank will soon , I fear, it will be unrecognisable from what it stood for when I opened my account.
    Withdrawing advertising from neo-fascist media outlets is not attempting to suppressi freedom of the press; it is exercising that freedom.
    PHILIP

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  27. This is a very dissapointing response from co-op. It appears that their principles are up for sale regardless of who’s buying. Unfortunately I won’t be giving them anymore business until their stance changes and they stop fueling sexism, racism and hatred.

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  28. […] which regularly advertises its supermarkets and funeral services in the newspapers, revealed in a blog last week that it had used “contacts with publishers at every level to make the case for […]

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  29. Seems a measured response, however I think it is important to be clear about “the importance of a free press” and freedom of speech. This does not include the freedom to tell lies, to incite hatred in ways which damage other peoples freedom, and to use deceitful propaganda to subvert democracy.

    The Stop funding hate campaign exists because the behaviour of these newspapers has gone way outside freedom to express different political views, and that is why it is important to oppose it robustly.

    These papers are also trying to bully and intimidate our public officials – judges and politicians. Calling them enemies of the people if they do not do as the newspaper dictates. This is unacceptable.

    These papers will try to use “freedom of the press to defend these actions – and we must be very clear about that freedom – it does not and never has included the freedom to lie, or damage other peoples freedom.

    Can the coop use its advertising in these papers to combat the lies and the propaganda?
    I think it is unlikely, to be successful.

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  30. “We’ve already had meetings with senior executives at the Daily Mail”

    Have you seen today’s front cover of the Daily Mail?
    Really? It’s sexist rubbish.

    The DM execs have taken you for a ride.

    It’s coming to something that Wikipedia has banned it as a source because of all its fake news stories.
    But you’re happy to sell it and advertise in it to make more money.
    Pretty poor for an “ethical” company, Co-op

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  31. Such a shame. I’ve actively been supporting my local co-op because I believed in it and thought it was more ethical than other similar retailers. Was clearly wasting my time.

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  32. Hi Co-op

    You can have my membership card back after today’s headline in the Daily Mail about Theresa May/Sturgeon. I don’t want to be associated with anything that funds the racist, sexist bile of this ‘newspaper’.

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  33. A terribly poorly thought through ‘update’, essentially saying that it is acceptable to support a paper spreading hatred purely because it is a ‘free press’. And it pays you money. Somewhere, your ethics bounced off the back of the lorry. Hope you are at least a little uncomfortable with today’s front page.

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  34. Look it’s a start, please coop, follow up on this and follow through, others will join in. Please let’s not spread hate. spin and part truths!
    I won’t have the mail or sun or express in my home ( my husband used buy the mail for the Suduko) not any more. These rags are shaping young minds and reinforcing far right views and intolerance. They have a lot to answer for.

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  35. Disappointing to know the values you embrace.

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  36. Well if everybody stopped doing things because of things they didn’t agree with what would they do ? Everything seems to have something that people don’t agree with . I shop at the co-op all the time their products are much more superior to the likes of Aldi etc . Yes you can buy cheaper but you get what you pay for . Simple thing is if you don’t like it instead of putting it down by sometimes harsh comments just don’t do it

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  37. I’m afraid this is a hopeless response. Nobody is trying to inhibit press freedom. What we are asking is just that the Co-op, which claims to be an ethically-driven organisation, doesn’t spend its money on advertising with publications that promote hatred towards minorities. That hardly seems a big ask – if you won’t even do this, why are Co-op different from any other retailer?

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    • It would be commercial suicide if the co-op were to stop advertising in the mail ,express and sun.No other publications come anywhere near the circulation of these three papers.I’m sure the vast majority of members are happy with the present policy and the Co-op should ignore the moans of the vociferous left wing minority.

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  38. Simply put, itvus ultimately the decision of Co-Operative Group where you advertise. As it is my decision wither I remain a customer of Co-Op Bank or do our shopping at the Co-Op. If you prefer to continue to advertise and thus support the Daily Mail I personally prefer to change banks and shop elsewhere.

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  39. Talk is cheap, only action will make these tabloids understand that freedom of the press does not include freedom to discriminate, distort facts and blatantly lie to its readers on a daily basis. Your advertising betrays your ‘principles’ and shows you put cash before the truth and the well being of others.

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  40. I too am deeply disappointed by the Co-Op’s decision. As a banking customer it’s time to move my accounts to a bank which matches my values, such as not supporting hate in the media. It’s the responsible thing to do in my opinion.
    No more quick trips to the local Co-Op to pick up the few things needed, a Morrison’s in almost as close, they will now get my trade.
    Thanks for clarifying your position so that those of us who don’t wish to fund hate can make the switch.

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    • Morrisons,Tesco,Sainsburys,Asda,Aldi,and Lidl all advertise with these newspapers so I think you are going to starve buddy or are you going to be selective and just pick on the Co-op an easy target

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      • An easy target the Co-op? Sure, lol. And why would he starve, there are plenty of local grocers and marketplaces.

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  41. Boycott the cooperative. They sponsor hate. Freedom of expression and freedom of press have nothing to do with offensive content, deliberate inaccuracies or plain lies.

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  42. I have been supporting the campaign to get advertisers to stop funding hate: it has been somewhat successful. But it’s not an easy ask as Nick’s response explains pretty fairly.
    What are the options?
    Members get Cooperative Group and other societies and companies to stop all advertising in the Mail, Sun and Express (all of whom are excrecable and barely deserve the word newspaper to describe them) – or else we’ll all shop elsewhere. Now what a nose-to-spite-face choice that is.
    All the other food stores we are likely to use continue to advertise so we have to boycott them as well and .. starve?
    And in the meantime mass-withdrawal of customers causes collapse of Uk’s largest coop: Fairtrade sales plummet causing crashing business in South Africa, South America, Asia etc. Campaigns against modern slavery, providing the world with drinking water, funding the Red Cross Loneliness Campaign and the local community causes stops.
    Here are some other things you can do:
    – obviously don’t buy the newspapers
    – engage online with the issues, rebut fake news, use a peg for your nose and add positive comments (no trolling please) to the nasty stuff on these newspaper online. I know it adds to the click count and thus their revenue, so short and sharp
    – share your positive views about immigration, support for coop campaigns, buy Fairtrade, eat British-only meat from coop, spend your pound where it has added value – The Coop Way
    – join with others in your coop to be a force for positivity – join the Coop Party if you wish, don’t take this horrible post-Brexit, fake-news, pseudo-nationalist atmosphere as a given: it can be changed.

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    • Stop funding hate is a nasty left wing pressure groupe who are trying to blackmail retailers into not advertising in the Daily Mail.I admire the Co-op along with all other retailers for standing up to them.Those idiots who say they will shop elsewhere will starve as all retailers advertise in the Daily Mail

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  43. Not good enough, Coop, you’re selling out, you’re funding hate. I’m taking my accounts away, been with you for decades.

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  44. What the Coop bosses mean when they talk about ‘freedom of the press’ is the freedom of a tiny handful of rich people to print distortions and lies.. while the rest of us don’t have the freedom to correct those lies because we don’t have the same resources!

    Coop: Stop using the idea of ‘freedom’ as an excuse for the fact that you are too cowardly to take a stand.

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  45. “suppress the freedom of the press”. Are you serious?
    If you were actually seriously considering this issue as you say then you’d stop advertising in those papers immediately.
    You can’t shove “tackling slavery” in there as an attempt to gloss over the fact that the papers you advertise in are hate-filled monstrosities.
    Either:
    1. You haven’t even looked at the horrific abuse that these papers peddle or
    2. You have and decided it was ok.
    Either way I am now ditching my local co-op and going back to shopping at Aldi.
    I thought I was doing the right thing supporting my local but you need to make changes before I go back.
    Tackling hate is far more important than any other considerations you might have.

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Co-op leaders