Co-op, 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 change”.
President of the Co-op National Members Council, Nick Crofts, wrote that the group would “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.”
He wrote that the move was intended to “tell [newspapers] 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,” he wrote.
“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.”
Co-op Group advertising appeared in The Sun on Sunday yesterday.
It is unclear who from News UK, The Sun’s owner, or Mail owner Associated Newspapers, met with the Co-op. It is not known if Co-op has met with executives of other publications.
It is also unclear whether any particular articles or editorial positions featured in the discussions.
Neither The Sun nor the Mail returned requests for comment.
Co-op had previously said it was “reviewing” its advertising in newspapers.
But the business did not respond to The Huffington Post UK’s questions about the discussions and referred us to Croft’s blog post.
In the blog, Croft admits Co-op advertises in newspapers to drive sales, and that it sells newspapers in its supermarkets
Croft also said that a new approach to advertising could see more emphasis on the group’s Fairtrade programmes and other initiatives.
But the issue is far from over as HuffPost UK understands that a vote on the group’s advertising policy will come during an annual general meeting of Co-op members in May.
The Co-op’s meeting with newspaper executives is the latest development in a sustained campaign by activists against newspapers that publish what they describe as “hateful” content.
Just last month, the Body Shop confirmed it had no plans to continue advertising in the Daily Mail despite previously close ties with the newspaper.
Last year, Lego Group said it had reviewed its commercial relationship with the Mail after customers’ concerns about its editorial positions, including on migration.
The Mail’s coverage of the Article 50 court challenge provoked widespread anger and calls for brands to stop advertising.
And Walker’s Crisps frontman Gary Lineker said in November that he had spoken to the snack firm about its promotions in The Sun.
Yet news of the Co-op meetings was met with caution by campaigners Stop Funding Hate, which said it would prefer advertisers to simply walk away from publications, rather than attempting to temper editorial content.
The campaign’s co-founder Richard Wilson told HuffPost UK: “While we welcome the spirit behind the Co-op’s announcement, there is a longstanding convention within the media that advertisers cannot directly influence editorial content.
“We believe that the most effective way to cancel out the incentives driving papers towards ever more extreme coverage is for brands to walk away and find alternative channels for their advertising.
“Stop Funding Hate has never asked any advertiser to lean on any publication over its editorial policy.”