Mediacorp pulls ads running alongside plane crash coverage on news sites

Programmatic buying has increased in prominence across Asia and Singapore. According to WFA, marketers and media leaders in APAC understand the importance of programmatic talent, with more than 60% having dedicated programmatic talent on their teams.

However, issues around brand safety and ad placements still remain. Over the weekend, news of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 broke across global and local media. In Singapore, the news was covered by publications such as Channel NewsAsia, TODAYonline and The Straits Times, among many others.

Unfortunately, news coverage of the flight crash on Channel NewsAsia's digital platform seen by Marketing showed that the articles ran with ads from Mediacorp's digital entertainment service Toggle with the words "under our sky" and "there is a monster in all of us".

The advertisements on mobile were promoting a science fiction show. Meanwhile the same article from Channel NewsAsia on the desktop also featured ads running from Korean Air reading "Go Korean". Marketing has reached out to Korean Air for a statement. Meanwhile, on Mediacorp-owned platform TODAYonline, NTUC Income was seen running an ad asking viewers to "get the insurance your ride deserves." NTUC Income has declined to comment.

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A spokesperson from Mediacorp said, “When any incident happens that requires us to review our ad placements, we activate a process to identify commercial content that may appear insensitive or inappropriate in the context of the incident. The process involves various measures including identifying relevant keywords and metatags to cover all references, direct or indirect, to the incident. Since ads are served through various channels including direct, programmatic and through partners, all channels are thoroughly reviewed.”

“The process is dynamic and happens in real time and is not restricted to a point-in-time exercise. The crisis response mechanism is kept activated for as long as is needed. As ad serving technology evolves and the pace of news coverage intensifies, we continue to examine and improve our processes to keep them robust and in step with the changing needs of our audiences and advertisers.”

A check by Marketing on The Straits Times also showed ads by Sompo Insurance Singapore running along the articles. Marketing understands that Sompo was unaware prior, and is currently checking with its media agency to rectify the situation.


However, the other ads on the ST spotted by Marketing by Marshall Cavendish, iStock and Nanyang High Girls School were not closely linked to insurance or air travel. Marketing has reached out to SPH for a comment and will update the story pending responses.

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Manasa Denning, Integral Ad Science's APAC & North America senior director of solutions engineering, said that maintaining a brand-safe ad environment requires "sophisticated, always-on technology". However, clients can do their part in lowering their brand risks.

She added that agencies are very familiar with their brand safety partners and their capabilities, and brands should be as well. "More knowledge will give you more peace of mind. Connect your publishers with your brand safety partner before the campaign launches, to ensure ongoing cooperative optimisations," she said.

Additionally, she suggested that marketers use a combination of blacklists, keywords, and page-level analysis for a comprehensive solution to protecting their brands. "Make sure your blacklist, keyword list, and parameters are up to date and review them on a regular basis. As new celebrity scandals, political scandals, international crises, and other concerns pop up, you’ll likely want to add keywords to your list," added Denning.

Dominic Powers, CEO, CtrlShift added with the ad copy as such, particularly the "Under our Sky" version, Toggle should have disabled the ads or at least ensured that they would not run in the context of anything to do with an air crash in the first place. “What was meant to be eye-catching, intriguing and mysterious could come off as opportunistic and insensitive,” he said.

Powers added that today, there are contextual analysis tools available for brands and publishers to help avoid these scenarios. “Ultimately, this incident is a reminder to all brand guardians about the importance of investing time and thought in explicitly outlining what brand safety parameters should be observed and establishing rapid response processes to address unforeseen scenarios that may crop up,” he said.