Pink Faces at Financial Times as It Pulls Amnesty’s Crowd-Funded Anti-Shell Ad

FT Amnesty ad


This is the ad that Amnesty funded via social media last month. And this is the newspaper that turned it down. The Financial Times waited until “the last possible moment” to pull the full-page ad, according to Amnesty’s U.K. blog, and the NGO’s campaigns director, Tim Hancock is not a happy man. “We gave them written reassurances that we would take full responsibility for the comments and opinion stated in the advertisement,” he said.

All publicity, it has to be said, is good publicity, but Amnesty U.K. is baffled by the fact that, while two other newspapers, Metro and the Evening Standard, were happy to carry the ad, the Financial Times waited until 4.58 p.m. GMT to make the decision. A spokesman for the FT said this:

Editorially the FT was more than willing to run the advertisement for Amnesty. Unfortunately, whilst Amnesty gave us written assurances that they would take full responsibility for the comments and opinions stated in the advertisement, it became apparent that Amnesty’s lawyers had not had a proper opportunity to advise Amnesty on those opinions. As a result, from a legal perspective we were unable to rely on Amnesty’s assurances.”

There is no doubt that the 2,000-plus individuals who funded the ad will feel a deep sense of grievance. Their money not good enough for the Pink ‘Un, eh?

So far, so legal. The blogosphere is thick today with the opinions of various commentators. While some said the newspaper’s reasons boiled down to “poor taste,” a fear of being sued by Shell or, more likely, a fear of the oil giant cutting back on the slice of its advertising budget that finds its way to Number One Southwark Bridge, its London offices. Guardian Media’s Roy Greenslade professed himself flummoxed by the FT‘s move.

Whatever the reasons, the ad has probably reached more people than it would have done had the newspaper not pulled it. While the FT does not have an anti-Amnesty bent, yesterday’s news hasn’t made it into the pink pages. So far.

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.