Singtel will no longer be engaging the services of influencer marketing agency Gushcloud, following the controversial digital youth marketing campaign that went viral after blogger Wendy Cheng ('Xiaxue') posted on her blog last Saturday as part of a 'Gushcloud exposé'.
The blog showed details of the campaign's media brief, which required Gushcloud influencers to "complain and lament" about fellow local telecommunication companies - M1 and StarHub - to help drive subscription towards Singtel's Youth Plan.
In a Facebook post on Singtel's page yesterday, Singtel Group CEO, Chua Sock Koong, also announced that the Singtel employee who worked with Gushcloud on the campaign has since been dismissed.
According to Koong, the employee did not adhere to Singtel's professional standards and values.
"Singtel does not condone negative campaigns or publicity against any individual or organisation. We are committed to upholding the highest standards of professional values and integrity. ... We will also ensure that business partners we work with are held to the same professional standards," she said.
She added, "We are committed to healthy competition in each of our markets. The senior management and I apologise, in particular to M1 and StarHub, that our actions in this incident did not live up to our high standards and values."
Prior to Koong's statement, Johan Buse, Vice President of Consumer Marketing, Singtel, also issued an earlier apology on Tuesday.
Vincent Ha, CEO of Gushcloud, has also taken it to Facebook to publicly apologise to both Singtel and its influencers.
In a post dated March 17, Ha said that as an influencer marketing company, it "should have known better and made better recommendations to [its] client."
He wrote: "It goes against the management's belief to use the Internet for spreading negative messages. ... But it was also my responsibility to ensure that a clear code of conduct and the necessary guidelines were put in place for my staff. The fallout from this episode that my team and our influencers went through was unpleasant to say the least and I would like to apologise to them."
Ha also urged industry players, including regulatory bodies and established companies, to work together to create proper guidelines for the influencer marketing industry.
On the other hand, two of Gushcloud's influencers have stepped up to the plate and issued apologies on their respective blogs.
Xavier Ong, 20, apologised on Wednesday for not revealing that he was working on a campaign with Singtel on his posts, but maintained that he was not lying about his dissatisfactions towards M1.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Eunice Annabel Lim wrote on her blog yesterday that she had never meant to mislead her followers. She also claimed that she was unaware that the tactics used in the campaign were wrong, especially since "those deliverables mentioned in the brief were already acknowledged and agreed upon by Singtel, an established corporation that has years of expertise working with advertising agencies."
Lim added that she too was genuinely unhappy with her previous telco's service.
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