Retail

The gloves are off: Coles attracts both love and wrath as Alan Jones calls for boycott

Matthew Elmas /

What’s in a consumer boycott? Supermarket giant Coles found out again this week when an August decision to halt advertising with Alan Jones’ 2GB radio show rebounded in the form of an in-kind boycott call from Jones himself.

In recent months, Jones has courted international criticism over his comments about climate change protestors and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Yesterday, he delivered a call to action for his listeners, telling them to boycott Coles.

The supermarket, which ceased advertising on Jones’ show in response to initial boycott threats from his many critics, now once again finds itself embroiled in Australia’s culture clash.

Jones’ advertisers have been ditching his show in hordes recently, amid a sustained campaign from critics applying pressure to anyone running ads on the 2GB network.

Now, Jones is adopting his own version of the same strategy.

“We can both play the same game,” Jones said on Thursday.

“I can tell my listeners to give Coles supermarkets and their groceraunts and their petrol stations a very wide birth,” he added.

“Good luck to you by the time I’m finished.”

Despite the fact neither Woolworths nor Aldi advertise on Jones’ show, Coles now finds itself on the receiving end of the wrath of angry radio listeners.

At the same time, however, it’s seeing renewed support from Jones’ critics, some of whom were threatening to boycott the supermarket only a few months ago.

Companies, and the decisions they make, have never been apolitical. But, with growing awareness of the role advertising plays in perpetuating political discourse, it has become much harder for businesses, particularly consumer-facing ones, to pretend they’re not taking sides.

Whether its single-use plastic bags, collectibles or advertising, the connection between where Australians shop and what they believe is clearly getting stronger. And businesses like Coles can’t get away with trying to toe an imaginary line.

“Coles values diversity, respect and actively promotes the rights of all our team members and customers,” the supermarket said in a statement after its decision to cease advertising on Jones’ show in August.

Customer boycotts are also just part of the picture. Internal pressure from employees and investors ⁠— themselves under pressure to be more socially conscious ⁠— are also part of the decision making process.

In 2019, this is more than just selling milk and bread. It’s a game of political science.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany. You can contact him at [email protected].

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