ST explains 'unfortunate juxtaposition' of Axe Brand ad, says media buy booked in advance

SPH flagship newspaper The Straits Times has apologised for the "distress" caused as a result of the "unfortunate juxtaposition" of yesterday's Axe Brand Universal Oil ad which was placed below a front-page report of the recent unfortunate killing at River Valley High School.

In a statement on its website, ST said: "Our front-page report of the River Valley High School killing appeared on the same page as an Axe Brand Universal Oil advertisement yesterday. This juxtaposition was inadvertent and unfortunate, in the light of the tragic incident."

It also explained that the ad had been booked in advance of news developments. A check by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE also found that the Axe Brand ad has since been replaced with an in-house ad on the paper's digital edition dated 20 July.

sph change axe brand ad1

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's industry sources said a front page ad of this size usually costs approximately SG$20,000 but is dependent on the deal or commitment signed by the brand, format and colour.

According to the 2020 rate card on Singapore Press Holdings' website, the base rate for an ad on ST is SG$55 per column centimetre. The news and front part of the paper are considered premium pages on ST and as such, are charged 20% and an additional 15% respectively. Surcharge for a full colour ad is SG$9,900.

sph st base rate

Meanwhile, Axe Brand also said in a Facebook post yesterday that the ad placement was unintentional but a very unfortunate coincidence. It added that the ad was arranged and booked last December with The Straits Times. "Our company is in deep sympathy and grief with the victim’s family," it said. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Axe Brand for additional comments on its monetary investment for the front page placement as well as the media and creative agencies it is working with.

The initial ad was seen in the print and digital editions of ST yesterday. River Valley High School made the headlines recently after a secondary four student murdered a secondary one boy. Multiple media reports including ST said an axe was seized by the police as evidence. When approached by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE previously, SPH did not offer a comment.

Many consumers today view unsavory ad placements as an intentional endorsement of the negative content and consumers’ perception of the brand declines significantly across key brand metric when such an incident occurs. Consumers are approximately three times less willing to associate with a brand that advertises alongside inappropriate or offensive content, said a study by IPG Mediabrands' Magna and brand safety company CHEQ. It was also concluded that consumers’ purchase intent is "stifled" by two times when displayed alongside unfavourable content.