Until yesterday, the phone-hacking row had failed to cause serious damage to the News of the World. Yet allegations that the newspaper hacked the phone of a murdered teenager have provoked outrage across the UK, prompting campaigns to hit the paper where it hurts: in the pocket.
Furious consumers bombarded companies from supermarkets and car makers to telecoms providers and banks with calls to withdraw advertising spending. Last night some of the biggest companies in the country began to respond, desperate not to see their family images tarnished as users of sites such as Mumsnet condemned the tabloid.
Equally damaging for Rupert Murdoch's newspaper will be the actions of Starcom MediaVest, a leading media advertising agency, which said yesterday that it was advising its clients not to spend money in the NOTW until the hacking matter was resolved.
The US car giant Ford was the first to reveal it had pulled all advertising at the paper, and others admitted they were urgently reviewing whether to follow. A Ford spokesman said last night that the company "cares about the standards of behaviour of its own people and those it deals with externally". Haven, the sister company to Butlins, said it was reviewing whether to spend with the NOTW as it did not want to affect its image as a "family company".
One company said customer reaction on sites such as Twitter and Facebook could decide whether it pulls its campaign. As companies looked to respond it became clear the NOTW faces a battle to keep its remaining advertisers.
Renault said it was booking no advertising with the newspaper, while the energy group nPower also said it was reviewing its options. A Virgin Media spokesman said the company was "keeping a close eye" on the situation.
Tesco told customers on its Facebook page: "We know that you have a lot of questions surrounding recent News of the World allegations. These latest allegations will cause huge distress to a family which has suffered enough. We await the outcome of the [police] investigation."
Angry customers hit out at Tesco's decision not to pull its advertising and one called for it to remove the paper from its stores. Robert Carroll, who said he lived close to the Dowler family, commented under Tesco's post: "You will find that your sales in this area will be hit in the next couple of weeks."
Companies were targeted by a campaign launched via Twitter. Several users drew up a list of NOTW advertisers and encouraged other users to question the brands about their plans to advertise in it.
The campaign was given a boost when it was posted on Mumsnet, the parenting website, whose users flocked to condemn the alleged actions of the newspaper. T-Mobile, which advertised heavily with the NOTW last week, has begun a review of its campaign.
A spokesman said the phone company had received thousands of tweets concerning the issue, and added: "The customers will have a real say in the outcome."
Chris Locke, group trading director of Starcom MediaVest, said: "We are advising all the clients that advertise [with NOTW] that if this carries on, they may want to ensure that they are nowhere near the title and if it extends across to the Sun at any point, then we will obviously take the appropriate action there too."
View from the clapham omnibus
Hacking Sienna Miller's phone to find out when she might next be seeing Jude Law was a little mischievous, people seemed to think. But hacking – and deleting – a dead girl's voicemail messages was a different matter. Commuters on the No 35 bus to Clapham, south London, were unanimous in their condemnation.
"There's a big difference between hacking a public figure or a celebrity and a normal person," said Fateh Lamine, 37.
Sarah Holborne, 64, said of the tabloid journalists responsible: "They should be fired. And everyone who the decision went through should be named and shamed. People are outraged because, morally, there's a difference in what they've done here."
Haroon Khan, 42, said: "What the News of the World has done is not acceptable in any civilised society."