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Singtel ends relationship with Gushcloud, apologises to StarHub, M1

SINGAPORE — Singtel has terminated its relationship with social media agency Gushcloud, after the agency caused a storm by asking its “influencers” to complain about rival telcos as part of a campaign for Singtel.

SingTel group CEO Chua Sock Koong. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

SingTel group CEO Chua Sock Koong. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

SINGAPORE — Singtel has terminated its relationship with social media agency Gushcloud, after the agency caused a storm by asking its “influencers” to complain about rival telcos as part of a campaign for Singtel.

The employee who worked with Gushcloud on the campaign is also no longer with the company, said Singtel Group chief executive officer Chua Sock Koong in a post in the company’s Facebook page tonight (March 19).

The employee, she said, did not adhere to Singtel’s professional standards and values. “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,” she said.

She added: “We will reinforce these professional standards and values in the company. We will also ensure that business partners we work with are held to the same professional standards.”

Singtel had worked with Gushcloud — whose clients include Amazon, Coca-Cola, Citibank and Tigerair — on the youth marketing campaign last June. Last Saturday, a brief about the campaign by Gushcloud to its influencers came to light after blogger Wendy Cheng, who is embroiled in a long-running spat with the agency, posted it on her blog.

The brief promised perks, such as cash and discounts on mobile phones, for its influencers — individuals with a substantial social media following — if they drove new subscribers to Singtel’s Youth Plan by complaining about the services of M1 and StarHub.

MI and Starhub then complained to the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), and have said they are considering taking legal action, given the potential impact to their reputation. The IDA has said it is investigating the matter.

Ms Chua’s statement comes after an earlier apology by Singtel’s vice-president of consumer marketing, Mr Johan Buse on Tuesday.

Gushcloud also apologised to all three telcos in a response to queries from TODAY tonight, with CEO Vincent Ha saying that "as the client's agency, we should have known better".

Adding that as a company, Gushcloud does not "stand for negative marketing campaigns", Mr Ha said they have started a process of auditing their "practices, processes and people". He said: "I am leading the change and guiding my staff on the values and principles on which we will rebuild trust and confidence." 

Since then, at least two of the influencers working with Gushcloud have also issued apologies on their respective blogs. Mr Xavier Ong, 20, apologised on Wednesday for not revealing he was working with Singtel on some of his posts, but maintained he was not lying when he made negative comments about M1, and he was he already unhappy with their service even before the campaign.

Ms Eunice Annabel Lim, 21, said on her blog on yesterday she had not intended to mislead her followers, and that she had not known the tactics used in the campaign were wrong, given she was working with established companies.

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