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.
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.
President, National Members’ Council