Center Parcs vs. the Daily Mail: Brands Taking a Stand

Last week, Center Parcs announced that it had pulled its advertising from the Daily Mail following the newspaper’s decision to publish a column against same-sex parenting.

The action was taken after a Center Parcs advertisement appeared alongside Richard Littlejohn’s column, headlined ‘Please don’t pretend two dads is the new normal’. The piece called out Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black’s decision to become parents. “I still cling to the belief that children benefit most from being brought up by a man and a woman”, Littlejohn wrote.

Following backlash from a vast array of tweeters and the pressure group ‘Stop Funding Hate’, which claimed that Center Parcs’ decision to advertise in the newspaper was ‘supporting’ homophobia, the company announced on Twitter that it had “ceased advertising with the Daily Mail with immediate effect.”

Such a decision is unarguably controversial, sparking one particularly important question. Should brands be political or impartial? Is the possibility of losing customers worth the expression of core values and the contribution to social progression?

From my standpoint, Center Parcs’ decision to amalgamate politics with consumerism is an intelligent move. It shows awareness and understanding of current world issues which are likely to affect some of its own customers, increasing trust and loyalty whilst inevitably attracting lifelong consumers. By going against the traditional habit of brands to keep neutral and by showing that remaining impartial is no longer always appropriate, Center Parcs recognise the benefits this can have on building a ‘connection’ between brand and consumer. Their decision to stand up to homophobia will reflect the values of many, thus consumers will make the association with giving money to the company as a way of supporting these values.

Center Parcs’ expression of political opinion highlights the progressive era of brand activism, a time in which we are seeing bold movement by brands into social conversation. I disagree with the claims that the decision was only the result of peer-pressure, in order to “keep that tiny majority happy” as written by Rod Liddle for ‘The Spectator’. To willingly sacrifice such a large advertising platform for the sake of the “tiny majority” seems highly unlikely. The choice was clearly authentic, as the immediate action was taken where a simple statement could have been given, or where all criticisms could have been disregarded entirely. It was not considered over a period of time, but was quick, suggesting it to be a decision formed on the basis of genuine value. That is surely a respectable move.

Of course, the decision made by Center Parcs is up for debate. They have been accused of disregarding the views of the minority, of virtue signaling and of adopting an anti-free speech position. Yet it is so overwhelmingly transparent to me that by distancing themselves from a highly sensationalist, slanderous and homophobic publication (amongst other things), Center Parcs is able to separate itself from these characteristics and to instead represent the diversity of its customers. To be accused of anti-free speech is confusing, as it assumes that free speech does not apply to both parties in this case. If the Daily Mail is free to publish articles which spout hate, Center Parcs is free to disagree with such content and to withdraw its support for the publication. Neither are targeted, both are simply exercising their freedoms.


Ella Molloy

(Image courtesy of The Gay UK)