I want to give you an update on our approach to advertising. In particular how we’re addressing the concerns some of our members have raised with us about the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun.

At our AGM in May we held a fringe event to debate the issue with members. Taking part were our Co-op Director of Brand, Helen Carroll; one of our Co-op Board Independent Directors, Lord Victor Adebowale; the Director General of ISBA – the Voice of British Advertisers, Phil Smith; and Richard Brooks, the NUS’ Vice President Union Development. Richard Wilson, the founder of Stop Funding Hate, was invited to join the panel but other commitments on the day meant he was unfortunately unable to join us. The session was chaired by one of our Member Nominated Directors, Hazel Blears. The lively discussion was fully reported in the Co-op News.

Ahead of the AGM we also carried out research into our members’ choice of news reading and looked carefully at the commercial data we have on the relationship between our advertising and sales of Co-op products and services.

We, of course, know that many of our members are regular readers of the Mail, Express and Sun, either in print or online. In addition, we know customers to our Food stores buy these newspapers regularly. That means the papers remain significant channels for our advertising and we can track how our adverts encourage people to shop with us more.

A new relationship 

So, having listened carefully to our members and looked at the value of our commercial spend, we’ve taken the decision to be more proactive in our relationship rather than simply walk away from these titles.

Earlier this year we met with senior executives at the Daily Mail and the Sun to tell them how we and our members felt and why some of the stories they’ve published don’t sit well with our Co-op values or our long heritage of supporting communities in need both at home and abroad. We’re also hoping to speak to the Daily Express.

Rather than walking away, we’re going to take advantage of their mass circulation to promote our Co-op values to their millions of readers – many of whom are our own members.

Last week we put this strategy into action by placing full page adverts in the Mail, Express and Sun to highlight our belief in the importance of equality of rights, the need to campaign for social change and the importance of global solidarity. All values at the heart of the co-operative movement. This is just the first of a series of adverts which will emphasise our values and principles as part of that international, co-operative movement, and 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.

Here’s the advert.

WaterTheCoopWay.jpg

The ad last week highlighted our extended commitment to tackle global water poverty and calls on others to follow our lead. You can read more about this from our CEO Steve Murrells who was in Hamburg last Thursday to announce our £1m plus annual donation to the new Global Investment Fund for Water.

Only a start

I’m pleased with this but I recognise it’s only a start. We must look to be pioneers as our co-operative forebears were back in 1844 and at countless times since. I don’t believe that walking away from a debate is the right thing to do nor the co-operative thing to do. However, I believe we must be bolder and braver still in calling out what our values are and make the case for them.

I recognise that this will not please everyone. It’s a hugely important issue to our members and to me as President of the National Members’ Council. So we’ll be keeping a close eye on the effectiveness of our strategy to see what impact it has.

Nick Crofts
President, National Members’ Council

Join the conversation! 32 Comments

  1. Well done for not being bullied by people who think their view of the world is the only valid view of the world

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  2. It’s important that we are honest and open about our policies, especially if this is something that is important to our members.
    ^Sophie

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  3. […] You can read the full story from our Council President Nick Crofts, on our blog […]

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. No, no, no. There is no reason whatsoever that you can justify placing advertisements in these so called ‘new’papers. STOP.

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    • Of course there is, primarily to offer a different point of view, in our case, the one for co-operative values that encompass social justice. Why hide that from the publications readers?

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    • We’re been honest to our members in this blog post, Russell. ^SB

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  5. An ethical business would not advertise in these publications which have racist, xenophobic & outdated editorial overtones. Shame on co-op for either ignoring or not having the intelligence to see this. Not sure which is worse…

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    • An ethical business would advertise in these publications and point to a different view if the publication is at odds. Thereby speaking to all those who may be affected by the publications view and encouraging, in this case, our co-operative values as a better way forward.

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  6. This is all very well, but why do we continue to have stickers promoting the Sun on the bottom of Newspaper piles?

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  7. Thank you for being open and honest about your decision to continue advertising in these newspapers. I’m going to be equally open and honest and tell you that I will be shopping elsewhere.

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  8. We’re very sorry to hear this Sue.
    ^Sophie

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  9. I appreciate your honesty and transparency. This is a good initial approach. I would comment however that whilst the ads promote your values and the brand, they do not engage debate or challenge the racism, xenophobia and bigotry so frequently printed in these papers. From that perspective, this looks like a disappointing cop-out which will change nothing. How will you measure the success of these ads if debate is what you’re looking to achieve?

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    • Exactly. A complete cop-out that does not challenge the rampant racism of these papers. Until I see an advert that explicitly calls out the hate-filled incitement to anti-immigrant violence that fills these papers, I too will be shopping elsewhere. Because I expect much more from the coop.

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  10. Why don’t you just withdraw your advertising from these rascist, xenophobic and bigotted papers and just submit an article to them explaining why you can’t do business with them because they are not in line with the Co-ops values and brand and won’t be able to advertise with them again until they present fairer and more accurate news and views? That would be much more effective, except of course they probably wouldn’t print your alternative views. Worth a try though don’t you think?

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    • By the same token we should stop selling them too then. It’d look somewhat hypocritical to stop advertising in them and making a song and dance about it, yet continue to sell them. However, the fact remains that these papers do have a significant market share. My grandparents and parents read the mail. Whilst I agree that some of the views expressed in them can be extreme right wing and distasteful to some, there are many, many people in this country who do read it and clearly agree with what they print, like it or not. We can’t just turn our backs on these people. These are our customers. Did the Rochdale pioneers turn away business? No, they were inclusive irrespective of your views (though back in 1844 society was a lot different in this respect!)

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  11. Thank you for your feedback, Chris
    ^Sophie

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  12. You say you don’t want to walk away from a debate. You won’t be – you will be stopping paying for articles which spread division & hatred. The debate will still go on – you just won’t be paying for the problem which causes the debate in the first place.

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  13. How about stop selling them too? The whole point of a boycott is that its a matter of principle and the profits made from selling/advertising these rags are a sacrifice in order to make our point.

    Water poverty and the causes that we will be promoting, although hugely important are hardly the cause célèbre and unfortunately, I can’t envisage much change coming. These newspapers are a cultural cancer and it’s down to organisations like ourselves to eradicate them.

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  14. […] hate crime experts have responded to the Co-op Group’s announcement that it plans to continue its advertising partnerships with the Daily Mail, Daily Express and […]

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  15. World: We think you should stop advertising in these publications because they’re hateful and harmful and you’re supposed to be nice.
    Co-op: We hear you! And we have a solution!
    World: Really? That’s great.
    Co-op: Yeah! We’re going to spend even more money on a bunch of reeeeaally big ads in these hate rags, and run some rehashed CSR press releases bragging about our do-gooding in some unrelated and less controversial areas!
    World: Ugh.

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  16. This week the Mail is supporting Katie Hopkins and a group of far-right activists (including holocaust deniers) in stopping rescue boats from saving the lives of vulnerable migrants in the Mediterranean.

    With this in mind, can I ask, where is the line for you and your organisation?

    At what point would you say, “no, we’re not happy to continue advertising here”? I would suggest that if you deem this kind of activity ok, there isn’t one.

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  17. This is one of the reasons I have stopped shopping at the Co-op. The ethical stance is changing and doesn’t seem as strong now that the Co-op is no longer a true “co-operative”.
    As Stop Funding Hate reports: “….All three newspapers have been called out by the United Nations over their coverage – and the Sun and Daily Mail were last year accused of “fuelling prejudice” in a Council of Europe report on hate speech…..”.
    How far do they have to go before the Co-op withdraws their advertising?

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  18. Your advert pales into insignificance against the bile and hatred that these papers promote. The only way that you will change behaviour is by withdrawing advertising. That is the only message that they will listen to. You are fooling yourself if you think otherwise. I am a new member and very disappointed with your stance.

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  19. You are funding hate and lies. Please stop.

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  20. People, why single out one supermarket group when all the others also advertise in these rags? Personally, I’d rather know someone is promoting good values with a Trojan horse strategy, ensuring a different point of view is given to the crass editorial readers absorb. Take that away and they only have Littlejohn, Hopkins and the like informing them and that is wrong. We cannot stop people reading what they chose, but we can help hold advertisers to account by ensuring that are not sponsoring the content. Lego did this, but stopped when enough of us called them out. Stop Funding Hate was invited by the Co Op to the meeting, but did not send anyone. That is an opportunity I am disappointed they declined. Have all the other brands done the same? One small step Co-op, thank you.

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  21. I have been a co-op shopper and bank customer for around 10 years, have a pension and other financial products with you, sacrificing the ‘best deal’ for me to try to invest in an ethical choice. I have already stopped shopping in John Lewis but feel much more sad about leaving the coop as I really felt it stood apart. If each of these companies stopped advertising the papers they absolutely would listen. I do understand the desire from the coop to target these mass audiences, who are sold a lie every day. I will be withdrawing my financial support of each of these businesses, not because I think they will know or even care but I will know that I have withdrawn my financial support from the hate-peddlers.

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    • Moira, the Co-op are not the hate pedlers, they run a grocery chain that hopefully sells stuff that people want to buy. Thinking about it, although I have never bought a copy myself, even the daily mail runs campaigns on things you and I might support. As and when they run articles that concern you, write to them, not all the retailers who might stock their product. I would like to know which are the best shops and banks to use as I am pretty satisfied with what the Co-op stands for and tries to live up to. Triodos is about the only one I can think of. The Co-op, or any other organisation that is looking to become a more ethical organisation, has a long road to travel and by withdrawing our support, we make that road steeper and just more difficult. If we weaken the Co-op, we weaken ourselves and the advocacy, at least, of Co-op principles and values. Please Moira, stick with them, support them even more and then we all have the power to change things.

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  22. It seems to me the coop is doing the job of weakening itself. I fully appreciate the business choices that John Lewis, M&S and the Coop are making here, to access mass audiences to get their individual messages. Unfortunately I have no faith that these elements of the press listen to anything except loss of funds.

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  23. Its really pathetic they are the left are trying to dictate to advertisers, just don’t buy from the coop if you don’t agree – there are only a handful of these load idiot.

    Do you see people on the right targeting telegraph, bbc and guardian etc to stop funding treachery, deception and division – no because they are not bigoted mental cases who want to police advertising and media like nazis

    ‘Stop funding what we perceive to be hate’ they should be called – just ignore them then will shut up soon enough, and probably still buy from you as they have zero integrity 😀

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#TheCoopWay, Business, Co-op leaders, Guest blog