Gushcloud influencers influenced by Singtel

From ‘Gushcloud bloggers apologise for negative Singtel marketing campaign’, 18 March 2015, article by Lim Yi Han, ST

At least two bloggers have apologised for posting negative comments in a Singtel marketing campaign. Mr Xavier Ong, 20, and Ms Eunice Annabel Lim, 21, and others managed by social media marketing firm Gushcloud were allegedly asked to complain about telcos M1 and StarHub‘s services to promote Singtel’s mobile plan for youth.

Mr Ong was first to say sorry in a lengthy blog post on Wednesday. “I…apologise to anyone affected for posting negative comments towards M1 (while on a Singtel campaign) and not explicitly stating or revealing that I was on a campaign with Singtel,” he wrote. But he added that he had not lied, and that he had been “unhappy” with his service provider, M1.

Screen shots of Mr Ong’s posts on his Twitter account criticising M1 were put up by blogger Xiaxue, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, along with what she called “leaked” documents allegedly asking bloggers to complain about the services of M1 and StarHub.

Earlier this year, ST ran a feature about ‘influencers’ (Influencers hold court, but how credible are they?4 Jan 15), defined as people who have a substantial ‘reach’ and following on social media platforms, trend-setters who shape the opinions and behaviour of their fans. One of these web celebrities gave this telling soundbite: ‘With great influence comes great responsibility’. That ‘influencer’ is none other than Xavier Ong himself. Interestingly, the ST refrained from using the glamorous term in the article above, preferring to relegate Ong and his fashionable ilk to the more mundane, Roy Ngerng division of ‘bloggers’. You know, the kind that gets sued more than they’re paid.

Ong’s ‘disguised’ Singtel advertorial is still up as we speak, and it’s painfully obvious that he was in the telco’s payroll from the get-go, using old-timey marketing phrases like ‘It’s just as simple as that!’ and copy -and-pasting the charts and infographics wholesale. You’re not fooling anyone kiddo, and despite your massive ‘following’, it’s likely that people (like myself) only knew of your existence when you got yourself ‘influenced’ by $ingtel’s devious marketing strategy. Not so ‘influential’ now, eh?

You see the same ruse used in Eunice Annabel’s blog. Complain about M1’s reception, give some perky backstory about how you came across Singtel’s FANTASTIC offer, and then sell the shit out of it. Sorry I don’t buy it, but probably because I can’t make it halfway through the pretentious product placement before opening another tab in my browser to watch vastly more entertaining cat videos. Nope, not even if they do naked selfies for the sake of the goddamn Youth Plan.

Poor Starhub. Lifestyle blogger/model/actress/Starhub hater Lydia Izzati was merciless in her shaming of the rival telco, saying ‘Screw You Starhub‘, only to go on to praise the Singtel Youth Plan to the heavens. I couldn’t find the Gushcloud logo anywhere on her blog though, but any site that requires me to scroll down for eternity through the most trivial artifacts of your life story and giving me finger abrasions doesn’t warrant any form of ‘influence’ in my opinion.

As for the masterminds behind this fiasco, tapping ‘influencers’ as part of your smear campaign seems like  a desperate tactic following some abject failures previously, like the mRemit ad with painted-on throbbing man-boobs. The marketing honcho explained that this was an ‘isolated incident’ and the campaign was a ‘niche’ one, ‘targeted at a narrow customer segment’. Let’s see, two pretty faces, both early twenties, with around 10 million site hits between them, a YOUTH plan. You’re not exactly selling frozen yogurt to elderly people with dentures, Singtel.

Singtel got it sorted out eventually, with Gushcloud’s partnership and the staff in charge getting terminated on 19 March 2015 (Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong apologises to M1, Starhub, employee in Gushcloud campaign no longer with Singtel). Maybe the work of some attention-seekers wanting to earn an extra buck doing the dirty work for a telco giant has brought about the eradication of this ‘influenca’ virus once and for all. Incidentally, the telco recently unveiled a new logo and a slogan called ‘make everyday better‘. By paying clueless narcissists to bitch about your competitors I suppose.

As for Gushcloud, or should I say Blushcloud, you could still reinvent yourselves after this embarrassment, not as a ‘social media talent agency ‘ but maybe an underground fetish network for like-minded individuals to socialise via a ‘niche’ genre of ‘watersports’.

This article was not brought to you by Singtel, Starhub, M1 or MyRepublic.

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Singtel wants to make ‘everyday better’

From ‘Netizens react to new Singtel logo and slogan’, 23 Jan 2015, article by Chew Hui Min, ST

The new Singtel logo unveiled on Wednesday has created quite a buzz. it also came with a new slogan “Let’s make everyday better”, and new service commitments by the telco. The rebranding and logo – the first in 16 years – were conceptualised by creative agency Ogilvy and Mather. The logo and slogan did not get the best reception online, it seems.

…Entrepreneur Calixto Tay wrote in Alvinology.com that the “new logo isn’t making too much sense”, and even asked two designers to come up with some new ones. Those by designer Jeremy Kieran featured the ‘T’ in negative space, and in one, it was made to look like an upward arrow.

There was some discussion as to whether the slogan was grammatical, and Facebook user Sergio Gs IIo wrote: “there is an even worse error: it should have been ‘everyday better-lah.

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The contentious issue here is whether the word ‘everyday’ is appropriate, since strictly speaking it should be ‘make every day better’. The conjoined ‘everyday’ is usually used as a adjective to describe the humdrum, the banal, the common, like our ‘everyday life’, ‘everyday people’ or ‘everyday heroes’. If Singtel had capitalised the word (Everyday) to imply that they’re using it as a noun in this instance, people would probably complain less vehemently. I assume these are the same people who lose sleep over LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem (EVERYDAY I’m Shufflin’).

Most people don’t bother to split the term in, well, ‘everyday’ conversation through email or messaging, and for practical purposes the two have become somewhat interchangeable, just like how we’ve learned to live with ‘someday’ rather than ‘some day’. Not every body, I mean EVERYBODY, has the time or patience to nitpick between the two.

So either this is a genuine case of grammatical oversight, or a deliberate marketing gimmick of using an adjective as a noun. Like ‘Think Different’, ‘Spread Happy’, ‘Imagine Extraordinary’, or the song titles ‘Beneath your Beautiful’ and ‘Excuse My Rude’, except this one’s less obvious and rolls off easier on the tongue. Singtel were quick to defend the slogan as referring to the ‘day-to-day’ things that matter to customers, but ‘Let’s make your day-to-day experience better’ just sounds terrible.

Some marketing folks do believe that the logo is an improvement, especially when the font has been changed from the previous ‘Time New Roman-esque’ typeface. The ‘t’, interestingly, not only has been downsized to small caps, but even has a funky incomplete stroke at the tip, almost resembling the side profile of a Jurassic-era phone receiver. If anyone continues to grumble about the new logo, which has 5 sprightly red dots in some kind of planetary trajectory, I’d be happy to refer them to the one proposed for our new National Gallery as a comparison. The ‘planet’ reference is fitting nonetheless, considering that there are times, in the train tunnel especially, when the 4G connection is literally ‘out of this world’.

Gordon Ramsay hawker cook-off a publicity stunt

From ‘Hawker cook-off with Ramsay a publicity stunt’, 6 July 2013, Mailbag, ST Life

(Dr Michael Loh): Is the cook-off between foul-mouthed British chef Gordon Ramsay and Singapore’s so-called Top 3 favourite Hawker Heroes on Sunday (Gordon Ramsay Takes On Hawkers, Life!, July 4) an irresponsible publicity stunt?

The reasons given for this event, organised by SingTel, are wishy-washy. SingTel’s publicity materials say: “Recently, there’s been great concern regarding the decline of local hawker culture and whether Michelin-starred accreditation would encourage fresh blood to join the trade and preserve our beloved heritage.”

If you cut through the gibberish, anyone will know that this is just another publicity stunt for the telco. There is nothing wrong for companies, in the face of fierce competition, to clutch at straws to win customers. But, to have an expletive-spewing, abusive, megalomaniac – who is hardly a role model for our children – come to Singapore and take on our hawkers is, to me, a shameless act by SingTel.

I haven’t watched a single episode of Hell’s Kitchen, but just an uncensored swearing compilation alone would give you some idea of what a nasty, violent bastard Ramsay the TV personality is, cussing at women, spitting into food and short of bashing participants senseless with crockery. As entertainment, the boot camp-in-a-kitchen concept is a success, though the vulgarities tend to lack imagination after a while.  Fans believe that his volcanic personality and potty mouth is what makes the Gordon Ramsay brand, hence the mobbing at Maxwell hawker centre while he was chopping chicken at Maxwell’s Tian Tian (incidentally the same stall that fellow celebrity chef Anthony Bourdian promoted when he was here some years back).  Singaporeans gravitate to the rude ‘bad-boy’ celebrity chef the same way they idolise meanies Simon Cowell and Donald Trump on the Apprentice, though some of the hawkers interviewed had no idea who Ramsay was (‘Is he Singaporean?) or what, or who, Michelin is (Name of a KTV girl?).

Ramsay’s promo for the Hawker Heroes event was designed and scripted to irritate the most passionate hawker food lover, and nothing would please a Singaporean more than seeing a brash, haughty ang moh beaten at his own game. Yes, it’s a publicity stunt that banks on the clash of cultures – Obnoxious Western chef meets the heartland hawker – and I’m not sure how getting Ramsay to cook his own version of chicken rice, laksa or chili crab would help the hawker dilemma in any way whatsoever. If nothing is done to change the way we educate our kids or how they view employment, we will lose our heritage no matter how many top chefs we fly in to help boost it. You don’t get into the business to just to please the occasional celebrity visitor, but the people who keep you employed, Singaporeans themselves. In fact, Michelin maestros have been settling down rather nicely here since 2007 with their fancy brand extensions. If anything they’re inspiring fine dining as a profession rather than saving hawker cuisine from certain death. I, for one, wouldn’t eat at a ‘Michelin-starred’ char kuay teow stall because it’s patronising to tradition and utterly pretentious. What next, gold leaf on carrot cake?

But so what if it’s just shameless publicity? I didn’t even know this was Singtel sponsored until I read this letter. Singtel doesn’t need to sell its services anymore than the Army needs recruitment videos. This is, after all, the same telco that brought you the F1 and Singtel Grid girls. In fact, I’d rather a naughty celebrity chef fly in here to promote the country as a culinary destination, than them holding a energy-consuming, air-polluting monster night race. So far, reports of Ramsay’s behaviour have been described as ‘kind’ and somewhat humane and I doubt he’d throw a hissy fit at the chicken rice aunty and jeopardise his contract with Singtel and even reputation by giving her a heart attack. Interviewers would have to tread carefully when it comes to personal questions with the chef though, in case they get labelled as ‘old, ugly, lesbian pigs’ behind their backs.

As for whether children care enough about celebrity chefs to look up to them as role models I’m not sure. Ramsay’s popular TV shows sure as Hell don’t look appealing to the young and impressionable, though in the ‘F word’ he talks to his children about the harsh reality of where pork comes from. He even teaches them how to make Christmas Mint Chocolate Truffles in the clip below. Given his kitchen persona as a sadistic, arrogant bastard, Ramsay mentioning ‘honey’ and ‘chocolate’  in the same sentence is as creepy as a serial killer singing a nursery rhyme.

Postscript: Of the 3 dishes, Gordon won for chilli crab, which was the odd one out in the first place. Well, they had to give the man something.

World Cup vs chicken rice

From ‘Fair and foul’, 14 May 2010 ST Forum

While $70 is a big increase from what we paid for the last edition(FIFA World Cup), four years makes a difference. The money one paid for a plate of chicken rice in 2006 will not buy the meal now.

Hence, I do not understand the complaints, especially by netizens, that subscribers are being made to pay too much. While Indonesia may be screening the matches for free, would we want to live there, on Indonesian wages?

If fans feel that $70 is too much to pay for subscription, then they should skip the World Cup altogether.

Unless you’re talking about comparing kopitiam vs Chatterbox chicken rice, what’s with this using hawker food fare to justify price hikes for entirely different things altogether? World Cup broadcasting is a monopoly, chicken rice isn’t, and I doubt chicken rice prices in 2006 were anywhere below $2.50 a plate and you can still get that kind of price today or less if you know where to look. Another disconnected argument is relating free broadcasting in Indonesia, with a population so vast they could make a greater fortune than our telcos by just charging people 7 cents instead of $70, to whether the people could afford it. The fact of the matter is that Indonesia is not as well off as us, yet still manages to secure free programming. If anything, it speaks volume of the disparity in consumer welfare between the two neighbours. Also, telling a World Cup fan to skip the event altogether is like telling a glue sniffer to stop making paper-mache.