The Co-op has been forced into a humiliating climbdown after announcing an ad boycott of The Spectator magazine on social media, which has now been reversed.
The major retailer, which also runs insurance, legal, prescriptions, and funeral services, had announced that it was “taking up the issue [of Co-op adverts in The Spectator] with a view to [Co-op’s media buyers] not using this publication again in the future” after random social media user @Lisa_Fajita had complained to them on social media, citing a tweet by the so-called Stop Funding Hate campaign which alleged that it is “a magazine notorious for transphobia & ‘anti-Muslim propaganda’.”
The 191-year-old magazine’s executive chairman, BBC interrogator-in-chief Andrew Neil, fired back swiftly, also on social media, saying: “No need to bother, Co-op. As of today you are henceforth banned from advertising in The Spectator, in perpetuity. We will not have companies like yours use their financial might to try to influence our editorial content, which is entirely a matter for the editor.”
The retaliatory measure was soon confirmed by a tweet from the official Spectator account, saying it was “Sorry to lose the Co-op, but The Spectator cannot work with advertisers who seek to use their commercial clout to stifle debate” and directing viewers to its coverage of the debate around transgenderism.
We will somehow survive without the Co-op. I doubt they've ever read The Spectator's coverage of the transgender debate. It took just one complaint and the Co-op ran for the hills. We don't need advertisers like that. https://t.co/u651Cd8S68
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) September 4, 2020
Within hours of the resulting backlash, the Co-op capitulated to Neil unreservedly, responding: “That’s escalated quickly and we want to set the record straight. The tweet sent yesterday was incorrect and does not reflect our advertising position.”
The consumer co-operative went on to claim that its policy “supports editorial freedom” and directed Neil to a PDF with some information about its 2018 annual general meeting (AGM) motions.
However, the initial announcement of an ad boycott against The Spectator did not appear to be the product of a woke social media team member firing from the hip, as this implies.
Indeed, the Co-op’s first acknowledgement of @Lisa_Fajita came on August 31st, with confirmation that ads would be pulled not coming until September 3rd, after an “investigation [by] the relevant teams” announced on September 1st.
That’s escalated quickly and we want to set the record straight. The tweet sent yesterday was incorrect and does not reflect our advertising position. Our policy supports editorial freedom and you can read more about it here: https://t.co/HgTFCKTxec ^Fi
— Co-op (@coopuk) September 4, 2020