Marks & Spencer asks to pull ad from Mail article on Stephen Gately's death

Ads for brands including Marks & Spencer removed from online version of controversial Daily Mail article

Charlie Brooker: Why there was nothing 'human' about Jan Moir's column on the death of Stephen Gately

Brands including Marks & Spencer have asked for their advertising to be removed from the Daily Mail website page featuring a controversial column about the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately.

After a storm of protest which grew during the day online, Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir defended her comment piece, rejecting accusations that it was homophobic.

In a highly unusual move, the Daily Mail issued a statement from Moir late today in which she hit out at the internet protests that led to more than 1,000 complaints being made to the Press Complaints Commission by 7pm, causing the regulator's website to crash for most of the afternoon. Celebrities Stephen Fry and Derren Brown were among those who used their Twitter feeds to urge followers to make complaints.

Display advertising has been removed from the Mail Online webpage around Moir's article. Earlier today a Facebook page was set up urging users to lobby brands featured on the page, including Marks & Spencer, to pull their advertising.

"Marks & Spencer does not tolerate any form of discrimination," said a spokesman for the retailer. "We have asked the Daily Mail to move our advertisement away from the article. This is a matter for the Daily Mail."

Nestlé, which had an ad for its Nescafe brand running alongside Moir's column on the Daily Mail website, said that the comments made by Moir were a breach of the Swiss company's code for "mutual respect and tolerance".

"Nestlé has no influence on the editorial content of the publications in which it advertises. The views expressed in the article are from the author and are not shared by Nestlé," said a spokeswoman. "The company has consistently emphasised the importance of mutual respect and tolerance, regardless of culture, religion or nationality. This a core company value as expressed in the Nestlé corporate business principles."

Nestlé added that it contacted its media buying agency MindShare to investigate having its ad removed, but the Daily Mail had already stripped the web page of advertising. BT and National Express ran ads alongside the column in the Daily Mail newspaper today. BT, which ran an ad for BT Broadband, declined to comment, as did National Express.

"Some people, particularly in the gay community, have been upset by my article about the sad death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately. This was never my intention," Moir said.

She went on to defend the text of her article, which argued that Gately's death "strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships".

"When I wrote that 'he would want to set an example to any impressionable young men who may want to emulate what they might see as his glamorous routine', I was referring to the drugs and the casual invitation extended to a stranger. Not to the fact of his homosexuality," she said.

"In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones," Moir added.

Later, a spokesman for the Daily Mail said: "Following the publication of advertisers' telephone numbers by the heavily orchestrated campaign attacking Jan Moir's column, Mail Online - of its own volition - withdrew the ads alongside her article."

"As Jan Moir, who has gone on record supporting civil partnerships, says in her statement, this intensely choreographed campaign mischievously misrepresents her carefully argued article. In the interest of free speech Mail Online is carrying comments both for and against her column but regrets the heavy handed tactics by the campaign which is clearly-being fanned by many people who haven't even read Jan's views."

Stephen Abell, the PCC deputy director, said the regulator had received 800 complaints today via phone and the internet in a couple of hours about the Moir piece, which has provoked a storm of criticism on Twitter and other social networks such as Facebook over what internet users saw as the Daily Mail writer's insinuation that Gately's death in a Mallorca hotel room last weekend was connected in some unspecified way to the fact that he was gay.

The PCC's homepage was back online by about 4.30pm, although it was loading slowly. "It has been a bit of a flurry today," Abell added.

Brown, who has about 124,000 Twitter followers, posted a direct link to the PCC online complaints page at about midday today. RT @nikkib @DerrenBrown No use just being cross. Complain where it matters. She breaches 1,3,5 & 12 of the code

Fry, who has more than 800,000 Twitter followers, re-tweeted this link: "Disgusted with Daily Mail's Jan Moir? Complain where it matters. She breaches 1,3,5 & 12 of the code " (via @kenrayner)

"We focus our advertising choices on whether the venue offers an effective way to reach the target consumer of a brand," said a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble. "Advertisements are often planned well in advance and we are not able to foresee or control unexpected and unfortunate situations such as this. However, we understand that the Daily Mail online has now removed the advertisement from the page in question."

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Chris Tryhorn, Mercedes Bunz and Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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