Singtel has apologised following a controversy surrounding marketing agency Gushcloud, which allegedly issued a brief to its social media influencers to write poor reviews about rival telcos.
In a statement issued to the media on Tuesday (Mar 17), Singtel's vice-president of Consumer Marketing Johan Buse, said investigations revealed that staff who worked with Gushcloud on the marketing campaign in June last year "did not adhere to Singtel's marketing standards."
He added that the campaign in question was a "niche" one, "targeted at a narrow customer segment".
"As an organisation, we maintain high marketing standards and do not condone negative campaigns or publicity against any individuals or organisations," Mr Buse said. "We apologise for this isolated incident."
He added that Singtel will emphasise its marketing standards to both staff members and agencies, as well as remind them of the importance of adhering to industry guidelines, including the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice.
Singtel had earlier said it did not issue the brief that asked Gushcloud's influencers to write negative posts about the other two telcos’ services or network connections. The brief, written by a Gushcloud employee, was widely circulated after it was posted online by local blogger Xiaxue, amid a long-running feud with the company.
Singtel's rivals M1 and StarHub have said they will ask the Infocomm Development Authority to look into the matter. Responding to the developments, the IDA told TODAY that it was investigating the matter.
In a Facebook update late Tuesday, Gushcloud CEO Vincent Ha apologised as well.
He said the campaign's intention was to leverage on Gushcloud's influencers to promote the benefits of Singtel's Youth Plan."As an influencer marketing company, we should have known better and made better recommendations to our client," Mr Ha wrote.
"Because of that, we have let our influencers and our client down with the way the campaign turned out and we are sorry to those who were affected by the campaign."
"It goes against the management’s belief to use the Internet for spreading negative messages," he added.
He also described the fallout from the controversy as "unpleasant" and said the Gushcloud team is committed to implementing a clear code of conduct and recommended practices. It has also "initiated talks with various industry partners including regulatory bodies and established companies to create proper guidelines for the influencer marketing industry", he wrote.
Mr Ha said his company has started an internal audit of its business, and is taking stock of areas in which it is lacking.