Filipinos woke up to the news this Sunday morning that the iconic giant globe in front of SM Mall of Asia (known simply as MOA Globe) has been stolen, as reported by the news website Rappler.

Netizens were quick to make up amusing theories as to what possibly happened, ranging from the gigantic globe supposedly being taken via helicopter, or it being stolen by certain politicians previously implicated in plunder cases.

As it is, the iconic giant globe is not really missing. This was confirmed by no less than Colonel Cesar Paday-os, Pasay City police chief. He quoted Carl Malabanan, a contractor for Aplify Experience Agency, as saying that the globe is just undergoing maintenance for a marketing campaign which was later revealed to be for the American movie “Red Notice.”

SM MOA globe missing - red notice
(Photo credits: SM Mall of Asia Facebook page)

Not everyone was amused by this publicity stunt. Media personality Anthony Pangilinan, for example, wrote this on Twitter: “If a company will issue an official security memo, major news groups will “cover” it, what’s to stop others from new stunts involving supposed heists, thefts, kidnaps, etc? I think we should take a second look at this, disinformation and all.”

Advertorials and sponsored posts are legitimate sources of income for media organizations. This can come in the form of sponsored articles, blog entries, and vlogs, as well as program episodes. This is not necessarily unethical. However, it becomes problematic when the line between actual reporting and the sponsored content becomes hard to define.

Under the “Act Independently” principle of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, media organizations are exhorted to “distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two” and that they must “Prominently label sponsored content.” Rappler, for instance, failed at this. They did not disclose clearly enough that the “MOA-Globe-is-missing” story is merely an advertorial. Casual readers must have thought that it’s a legitimate news event, especially since not everyone knows what they meant by the hashtag #BrandWrap.

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