Singapore based agency returns award for refugee locating app
Global ad agency returns international award for refugee-locating app after external testers point out that it does not work
Grey Group, a global advertising agency whose Singapore office created a controversial refugee-locating mobile app, has decided to return a prize awarded by an international advertising festival.
Grey for Good in Singapore, part of Grey Group's philanthropic arm, which developed the I SEA app, has stood by its product despite "the unwarranted, unfair, unrelenting attacks by unnamed bloggers", Grey Group's chief communication officer, Mr. Owen J. Dougherty, said in a statement yesterday.
It returned the award to "put an end to this (online attacks) and return the Bronze Lion so there is not even the hint of impropriety or a question of our integrity", he said.
On June 20, the group won the Bronze Lion at the Cannes Lion 2016 under the "Promo & Activation" category.
The I SEA app lets users spot and flag distressed refugee vessels while accessing real-time satellite images of the Mediterranean Sea.
The vessels' location would be alerted to the Malta-based organisation Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), Grey Group's client.
MOAS has since discontinued its relationship with Grey Group.
The mobile app had gained positive attention when wire agency Reuters and wired.co.uk covered its launch on June 13 and 14.
Mr Low Jun Jek, its executive creative director, told wired.co.uk: "The app uses an algorithm that divides the satellite images of the sea into thousands of smaller plots."
Each user is assigned a plot to monitor and could alert MOAS through the app if they spot distressed refugee vessels.
SAME STATIC IMAGE
This information would be analysed by MOAS, which would activate a rescue mission if necessary.
But after the initial reports, other developers who tested the app criticised it for using the same static image to represent the vast sea, instead of the real-time satellite image.
Twitter user SwiftOnSecurity, who has 133,000 followers, first pointed out that it is a "non-functional app" on June 19.
iOS app developer Rosyna Keller replied to him on Twitter, saying that "images were from Google Map", which are not real-time.
The Apple app store has also removed the mobile app.
In its defence, Grey Group said on June 19 that the "satellite images available are not in real time" as it was still in a testing period.
The app still won the Bronze Lion at the Cannes Lions 2016.
The app then attracted even more scrutiny from tech bloggers, media outlets, and social media experts.
Prominent social media expert Alastair Bullock wrote an open letter, which went viral, calling for Grey Group to return the award.
US media news website Gawker also billed the app as "pretending to distribute satellite imagery to smartphone users".
Likewise, iOS developer Alex Kent also took to Twitter to claim that his "'live' satellite image is (the) same in all screenshots"
Prof Tan Sze Wee, chairman of Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas), told The New Paper yesterday it will not be taking action as "the YouTube video has been pulled from Grey Singapore's page and the I SEA application in question is no longer available and not being marketed by iTunes".
FALL FROM GRACE
June 13: International media outlets cover I SEA launch.
June 19: A Twitter user, SwiftOnSecurity, points out that the app is "non-functional".
June 19: Grey Group says satellite images are not in real time as it is still in testing period.
June 20: Grey Group is awarded Bronze Lion at Cannes Lion 2016, an international advertising award. Apple Store subsequently removes app.
July 5: Grey Group issues statement saying it intends to return award.