The News of the World sensationally revealed plans to publish its last-ever edition on Sunday, following an astonishing week in which the public piled pressure on retailers and manufacturers to drop advertising from the paper at the centre of a phone-hacking scandal.
The News of the World also revealed plans to publish an ad-free issue after its advertisers fled in droves and those that were left faced intense criticism from their customers.
Earlier on Thursday, Sainsbury's and Boots followed The Co-op Group in suspending advertising with the newspaper until the outcome of the police investigation was known. Morrisons and Asda said they had no plans to advertise with the paper this weekend, while many other companies had chosen to monitor the situation, including Tesco, P&G and Unilever three of the title's biggest-spending advertisers.
Sainsbury's and the Co-op's decision to pull ads came after their Facebook pages were swamped by customers protesting at their decision to wait for the investigation's outcome. "You need to act now if you are to convince any of us that your ethical credentials can be taken seriously," one poster wrote on the Co-op's Facebook page. A poster on Sainsbury's page wrote: "Try something new today like some principles."
The Co-op said the allegations had been "met with revulsion by the vast majority of members", so it chose to "suspend temporarily any further advertising and promotional activity with the paper".
This was a "prudent move," said branding expert Jonathan Gabay. "Anything that could potentially impact on the major brands needs to be assessed very carefully," he said.
Despite huge numbers of complaints on its Facebook page, Tesco had remained adamant that it would wait for the outcome of the police investigation, and was understood to be one of just four remaining advertisers before News International made its sensational decision. "We believe the absolute priority now is for the allegations to be investigated thoroughly and properly," Tesco said.
Although none of the big supermarkets went as far as delisting the paper, independents said they would make a stand, despite the title being the biggest-selling Sunday paper with a circulation of more than 2.6 million in May, according to ABC. "We have decided not to stock this paper until further notice and are encouraging others to do the same," said Andrew Thornton, the owner of two Budgens stores in London.
National Federation of Retail Newsagents national president Kieran McDonnell added: "Such activities do a huge disservice to the newspaper industry in general and News International."
Sainsbury’s joins The Co-op in News of the World ad boycott (7 July 2011)
Tesco won’t rush into News of the World boycott (5 July 2011)