Big brands take their ads off GB News amid scrutiny over launch

The channel outperformed both Sky and BBC News on its launch evening.

Andrew Neil: hosts nightly show on GB News
Andrew Neil: hosts nightly show on GB News

Cider giant Kopparberg has pulled its ads from GB News, after saying the channel broadcast them without its knowledge or consent.

In a tweet, the brand said: “Kopparberg is a drink for everyone and we have immediately suspended our ads from this channel pending further review of its content.”

According to the Twitter account of Ripples, which describes itself as a "progressive digital campaigning platform", Grolsch, owned by Asahi, and Nivea have followed suit.

Grolsch told Ripples: “Grolsch is a brand that prides itself on core values of inclusion and openness to all people, and we want to be clear that we do not associate ourselves with any platforms or outlets that go against these values. We will do everything we possibly can to ensure that Grolsch does not appear on this channel again.”

Campaign has contacted Grolsch, which did not immediately respond.

It is common in TV media for advertising to be bought and targeted to agreed audiences, rather than specific channels.

Meanwhile, Nivea told Ripples its ads had appeared on the channel automatically as a result of media buying algorithms, and it had paused advertising on GB News in line with its usual policy for any new publication or channel.

GB News announced in May that it was outsourcing its advertising sales to Sky Media

Both GB News and Comcast-owned Sky Media declined to comment for this story.

Challenging the “woke” agenda

The new network, chaired by veteran broadcaster and former BBC political interviewer Andrew Neil, began broadcasting on Sunday, with Neil’s opening monologue attacking “cancel culture” and challenging the “woke” agenda of existing mainstream news organisations.

The channel, which is positioned as a rival to the news and current affairs offerings such as the BBC and Sky, peaked with 336,000 viewers on Sunday evening, outperforming BBC News’ audience of 100,000 and Sky News’ 46,000.

Critics have claimed GB News is an attempt to create a British version of the right-wing Fox News, although Neil and other senior colleagues have insisted it is committed to “impartial journalism”.

Neil has said the network would not be “another echo chamber for the metropolitan mindset that already dominates so much of the media”.

He added: “It is our explicit aim to empower those who feel their stories, their opinions, their concerns have been ignored or diminished. We are proud to be British. The clue is in the name.”

GB News has said it will obey Ofcom’s broadcasting regulations on impartiality but the channel is still likely to face scrutiny.

A number of campaigning groups warned ahead of the launch of GB News that they would watch the new channel's output closely.

Stop Funding Hate, a campaigning group that has previously targeted advertisers in some tabloid newspapers, said in May that it had received “a lot of requests to help identify any companies advertising on GB News”.

In response to the moves by Kopparberg and other brands to halt or suspend their advertising, Stop Funding Hate said: “GB News have attacked the England football team over their anti-racism stance, and aired dangerous claims about Covid-19 within days of launching. It's no surprise that so many reputable brands are stepping away, and refusing to align with this.”

More advertisers are reconsidering their involvement

Several other advertisers have indicated they are reconsidering their presence on GB News.

Renewables-focused domestic energy supplier Ovo said: “We have a media partnership which places our ads across a number of channels and programmes on the network. We hadn’t specifically targeted this channel, but our teams are looking into this today.”

An Ovo spokesperson told Campaign the brand's media agency is a member of the Conscious Ad Network, which seeks to encourage advertisers and agencies to make conscious choices about how where they place to their advertising and the media it funds.

“Our adverts ran without our prior knowledge or consent and our teams are continuing to look at this,” Ovo added.

Octopus Energy had a similar approach, stating it did not target the channel and that it would “look at this”.

Greg Jackson, the founder of the firm later tweeted a list of recent financial investments made by the firm, making the point it had spent £1,000 for an ad “on a right wing channel” compared with £108,000 on its Black Lives Matters fund and millions on sustainability measures. He added: “Hope perspective helps.”

Vodafone has stated it does not advertise on the channel, though it did not clarify whether it has done so previously.

GB News anticipated there was likely to be a backlash from campaigning groups long before its launch.

Neil said on Twitter in February: “The woke warriors trying to stir up an advertising boycott of GB News, a channel that hasn’t even started broadcasting, are hilarious.”

The channel's high-profile signings include former Sky Sports presenter Kirsty Gallacher, ex-BBC presenter Simon McCoy and former ITV presenter Alastair Stewart, who offered viewers a taste of their respective programmes from various locations around the GB News studio in Paddington, west London at the launch.

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