Last week, Paperchase axed its marketing campaign in the Daily Mail following pressure on social media instigated by the advocacy group Stop Funding Hate. The group’s argument is that the Daily Mail both spreads and legitimises hatred and division; if brands want to advertise in and thus financially support these publications, then they must be held accountable. It is not simply Paperchase’s decision to discontinue the advertisement that is salient, but the subsequent grovelling apology that followed it, stating they were “truly sorry” and “won’t ever do it again”.
What is peculiar about this case is that I find myself agreeing with Piers Morgan on the matter, who labelled Paperchase as “snivelling little cowards”. Granted, I would not be using such vitriolic language, but the point still remains: a business does not need to apologise for advertising in a newspaper. A business, at the end of the day, is primarily concerned with sales. It opted for this marketing strategy to widen its base from mostly young people; the Daily Mail has an average audience age of 58. After this was met by negative responses, due to Stop Funding Hate’s pressure, it thought it would get back in the good books, which was obviously seen as being a more beneficial marketing strategy than what was initially opted for. But all this signifies is a sense of antipathy towards Daily Mail readers themselves and that you can achieve what you want simply by being vocal online. The Daily Mail, after all, is the second most popular newspaper in the country. It seems odd that a business would distance itself from this market base due to the outcry stemming from a few hundred tweets and Facebook posts. It is also odd that Paperchase appeared to be completely unaware of the Daily Mail’s reputation, which only became apparent that it contradicted its morally pure principles once the tweets started pouring in.
It believed that disregarding the entire Daily Mail readership in favour of a much smaller group of people would be better for sales, prioritising attention simply because they were more vocal. Its apology is an attempt to appease the young, politically active people of Twitter. By caving in to pressure, Paperchase has legitimised the idea that you can manipulate a business’s marketing strategy, infringing on its commercial freedom, just by making a lot of noise. Not only is its apology ridiculous, it illustrates how desperate businesses are to appease the active voices of the web, leading them to create this façade of caring so dearly about what some deem to be morally permissible. The fact of the matter is, however, that advertising in a newspaper does not endorse nor pledge allegiance to an editorial stance. And a business should not have to apologise for something as miniscule as offering free wrapping paper.