Blimey, what a day! Just a few short hours ago, we were questioning how many retailers would follow The Co-op’s lead in pulling advertising from the News of the World - especially in light of Tesco’s decision to wait for the outcome of the police investigation.
Now it’s all academic. The News of the World is no more (or it will be after Sunday to be replaced by The Sun on Sunday perhaps?).
For all the rabid speculation about the paper’s future, few predicted its demise would be so swift. Or that advertisers would be let off the hook so easily. Because they were very definitely caught on the horns of a dilemma as the very different responses from UK retailers demonstrated.
Those that acted quickly in the wake of the torrent of phone-hacking revelations did so in the main because they were coming under intense pressure from their shoppers much of it via their social networking sites. Which is what made Tesco’s stance so interesting.
Unlike Morrisons, the other major retailer that didn’t instantly sever ties with the paper, Tesco has recently really engaged with social media - and its customers were numerous and vitriolic in their criticism, one posting a message on its Facebook wall saying they preferred to shop at the Co-op rather than what they described as “a spineless big business”.
Others threatened to shop at Sainsbury’s, which had already cited “the rising concerns of our customers” as the reason for pulling the plug on its NOTW ads.
Yet Tesco stood its ground and had the paper not folded, it would have avoided the predicament its rivals faced. With further revelations more likely than not, it would have been tough for Sainsbury’s, The Co-op or Boots to get back into bed with the News of the World again without risking being accused of hypocrisy by their shoppers.
The question now is: will the paper’s downfall draw a line under this whole débâcle or could other titles yet be dragged into the mire?