Many of you may have seen viral posts of the front page of The Straits Times (ST) newspaper concerning the recent murder which took place at River Valley High School (RVHS). However, it wasn’t just the news itself that turned heads – it was the placement of an Axe Brand Universal Oil advertisement at the bottom of the article.
The 20 July edition featured the article about a secondary four student who was arrested for the murder of a secondary one boy at RVHS. According to multiple media reports including ST, an axe was seized by the police as evidence.
The advertisement, placed on the same page, featured the brand name “Axe Brand” in large font, and the ad copy reads: “A handy medicine for quick relief of cold and headache. To get you prepared for your next step.”
Axe Brand posted an apology the next day, saying that the placement was “not intentional” and that “the advertisement was arranged and booked in December 2020 with Straits Times.”
ST’s response came only in its Wednesday edition, at the bottom of Page 2. It was simply an apology column titled “Unfortunate juxtaposition” and calling the situation “inadvertent and unfortunate, in light of the tragic accident.” It also reiterated Axe Brand’s explanation for the ad placement.
You’d think that after this incident, there would be more checks on ad placements. But on Wed, 21 July, several online stories of the River Valley High School incident on The Straits Times website featured an ad by Cordlife – the tagline: “Safeguard your baby’s health protection for a lifetime with Cordlife.”
This time, however, the blame could be somehow put on automated ad placements that’s widely used by marketers.
Not the first time ads have been misplaced
This isn’t the first time that a brand has had an ad unfortunately-placed either. In February this year, Marketing Interactive spotted a precariously-placed BMW Singapore on Mothership’s article that detailed a horrific car crash along Tanjong Pagar which took the lives of five individuals. The ad was located midway through the article, with the tagline “Sheer Driving Pleasure”.
Below is an AirAsia ad back in 2016 that was placed on the front page with articles on terror attacks and fan violence – the tagline “Free Seats” may have been a little ironic. In 2019, ST publicised ads from AirAsia promoting “free seats” alongside a news article on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash.
It just goes to show that ad placements aren’t exactly deliberately placed. These are just some examples of ad missteps, and in an age of automated ad placements, we can expect to see more of these.
While consumers will have a decreased brand perception due to missteps like these, however, there’s a reason why the phrase “any publicity is good publicity” is entered into the dictionary.