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Singtel apologises for Gushcloud campaign controversy

Zafirah Salim | March 18, 2015
The local telco describes this matter as an “isolated incident” and claims that it did not incentivise Gushcloud influencers to badmouth M1 and StarHub.

Source: Wendy Cheng's blog (Click for bigger pictures)

Last Saturday (March 14), well-known blogger Wendy Cheng, better known as 'Xiaxue', posted a second part of her "Gushcloud exposé" on her online blog (the first one was posted on December 23 last year), with details of a Singtel digital youth campaign in June 2014 with influencer marketing agency Gushcloud.

According to Cheng's blog, Singtel engaged Gushcloud to "build up hype and drive sign-ups towards Singtel's Youth Plan". The leaked media brief also tasked the influencers to "complain" about the network connections and services of fellow telco competitors, namely M1 and StarHub. They were also promised incentives such as cash, mobile phone discounts, free mobile data and VIP invites to Singtel events, depending on the number of sign-ups.

In addition, the media brief included a proposed storyboard - which bore the Singtel logo - that acts as a guideline for the influencers to craft their posts.

Singtel denied issuing the brief, claiming it was written by a Gushcloud employee.

But when asked if Singtel was at all aware of Gushcloud influencers being tasked to carry out a 'smear campaign' against its rival telcos, Singtel declined to comment.

In a statement issued to members of the media yesterday, Singtel has since apologised, describing this matter as an "isolated incident". 

"We would like to clarify that this was a niche campaign targeted at a narrow customer segment. Further investigations have revealed that our staff who worked with Gushcloud on the marketing campaign did not adhere to Singtel's marketing standards," said Johan Buse, Vice President of Consumer Marketing, Singtel.

"As an organisation, we maintain high marketing standards and do not condone negative campaigns or publicity against any individuals or organisations. Our focus has always been on the strength and differentiators of our products and services," he added.

M1 and StarHub have taken this matter up with Singtel and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

IDA is currently looking into this. Its spokesperson said that "operators should abide by the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice when conducting marketing activities", according to an online report.

The Code states that advertisements "should not unfairly attack or discredit other products, organisations or professions directly or by implication".


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