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Brands pressured on newspaper ads

News, 16 November 2016

LONDON: In a febrile political environment, brands, including Lego, Walkers and John Lewis, have come under pressure from campaigners to stop advertising with certain newspapers which stand accused of exacerbating an already divided society with their editorial coverage of immigration issues.

Lego, the Danish toy brand, recently gained plaudits for announcing it had finished an agreement with one such title, the Daily Mail, and was not planning any future promotional activity with the newspaper.

This has typically involved toy giveaways designed to increase brand awareness for Lego while boosting circulation for the newspaper.

But Campaign noted that "promotional activity" was not synonymous with "advertising" and reported that Lego may have spent nothing at all on advertising with the Mail for the past two years, or at most £2,500.

Campaigners have also called on John Lewis to rethink where it advertises, pointing out the disconnect between the Christmas spirit the retailer seeks to evoke in its seasonal advertising and the outlook of some newspapers where its ads appear.

"It is great in some ways that the companies like John Lewis are tapping into these values to position themselves and market their products," said Richard Wilson, founder of Stop Funding Hate.

"But it is a weird contradiction because the rest of the year they are giving money to organisations like the Daily Mail whose values are quite the opposite," he told The Drum.

"If you pay for advertising and you finance organisations like the Daily Mail it is going to have a social impact, it is going to lead into a more divided society, and there is a cost to society of that business decision," he argued.

Other tabloids are also a focus of campaigners, including some high-profile brand ambassadors; Gary Lineker, the face of Walkers crisps for 20 years, tweeted that he had held talks with the brand about its relationship with The Sun, following that paper's attack on him for his views on the refugee crisis.

Walkers subsequently indicated that "our advertising approach is not determined by the editorial stances of individual newspapers".

Data sourced from Campaign, The Drum, Guardian, additional content by Warc staff