Singtel apologises for smear campaign against rivals
Singtel has apologised for its part in the controversy over social media agency Gushcloud’s alleged digital strategy to discredit rival telcos as part of a campaign.
This comes after the telco had said, in an earlier statement, that it did not issue the brief that is being circulated online.
The brief comprises instructions to “influencers”, a common term used to describe social media personalities, on how they can engage in a smear campaign against its two rivals, StarHub and M1.
Clarifying that it was a “niche campaign targeted at a narrow customer segment”, Singtel’s vice-president of consumer marketing Johan Buse said yesterday: “Further investigations have revealed that our staff who worked with Gushcloud on the marketing campaign in June last year did not adhere to Singtel’s marketing standards.
“As an organisation, we maintain high marketing standards and do not condone negative campaigns or publicity against any individuals or organisations.”
He also said: “We apologise for this isolated incident.
“We will emphasise to our staff and agencies our marketing standards and the importance of adhering to industry guidelines including the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice.”
On Saturday, prominent blogger Wendy Cheng, better known as Xiaxue, posted the second instalment of her allegations against Gushcloud, which included the Singtel brief.
She claimed that Gushcloud, a client of Singtel, had sent a brief to its “influencers” to complain about the services of rival telcos.
The purpose of this was to eventually drive sign-ups to a Singtel youth plan in June last year.
The blogger said: “I checked with acquaintances working in Gushcloud.
“I also went back to several influencers’ blogs and social media accounts and noticed that they were indeed complaining about the services of the other two telcos — at around the same time.”
When The New Paper contacted Gushcloud, its co-founder Vincent Ha said the company could not comment because it was still “investigating the matter”.
But it posted a short statement on Facebook on Saturday. It said: “The brief is not meant to be read in isolation without the full context and verbal briefings given by Gushcloud.”
Meanwhile, both StarHub and M1 have raised the matter with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).
Ms Jeannie Ong, StarHub’s chief marketing officer, said: “We are deeply disturbed by the tactics employed and the possible damage to our brand. We will be engaging with both IDA and the relevant operator on this issue.”
M1’s assistant general manager of corporate communications, Mr Chua Hian Hou, said: “Such practices are unethical, and we intend to seek clarification with the relevant operator on this matter. We will also request IDA to look into this.”