ASAS, Gushcloud to work on industry-wide influencer guidelines after Singtel saga

Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) is working with industry players including social media agency Gushcloud on a set of ethical guidelines, following the recently reported Singtel blunder with the latter.

The incident spurred industry watchers to suggest that the influencer community lacked proper guidelines. Gushcloud was fired after word got out that its bloggers were slamming Singtel's competitors M1 and StarHub.

These guidelines will be created following a discussion with the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) and is especially created for those engaging or working with influencers.

According to an article on CNA, these guidelines will emphasise appropriate conduct when engaging social media influencers. There will also be an ethics assessment checklist for influencers, advertisers and agencies and a detailed description on how to write disclosures for advertiser relationships.

The article also quotes ASAS saying it will be looking to understand the various issues and needs of the influencer industry. Marketing has also reached out to ASAS for a statement.

Meanwhile, Vincent Ha founder of Gushcloud has confirmed this to Marketing, adding that it has decided to form a council of advisors to guide it on its business.

“The guidance would include establishment of clear internal operating standards, along with operational ethos. Details will be provided when we are ready. We are determined to do this for our clients, our influencers and our staff and we are thankful for the people and organisations which have shown their support during this season,” he added.

Yang Hui Wen, regional director of Netccentric, the company that owns influencer network Nuffnang said that it is also in the talks. She added that Nuffnang is however “wary of the effectiveness of Gushcloud’s participation in the discussion” as its past ethical behaviour undermines the credibility of the committee.

Yang added that prior to these incidences, Nuffnang has always maintained its own internal code of conduct through internal processes and physical handbooks given to influencers. For example, before an influencer accepts an assignment, Nuffnang places a prefix before the brief about the declaration of sponsored assignments.

“Gushcloud’s initiative, although taken in the right step, is a little too late as they have already done damage to the influencer marketing industry which has taken years to lay its foundations, and finally accepted as a trusted medium for advertising,” said Yang.

She added that as an agency managing a group of people who can shape opinions, these values should be ingrained in their business from its inception, and should have been the very backbone of their processes and not as an afterthought.

Meanwhile social media agency We Are Social said that it has not yet been roped into any discussions with ASAS.

Sophina Smith, client solutions director of the agency said that the agency would like to be involved in such a discussion but We Are Social’s policy is that it does not recommend monetary payment between influencers and brands.

“There should be transparency between a brand’s activities and those of influencers. The relationship between both parties should ideally be authentic — if the brand, product or initiative is strong enough, then it should be attractive for the influencer to talk about it in a positive light,” said Smith.

She added that paying influencers and not being transparent about this activity immediately suggests that this relationship is being skewed and falsified.

"While we don’t recommend that brands engage in paying influencers, if they choose to follow this path we recommend they be transparent and up front about it (again, demonstrating a sense of authenticity and therefore building trust)," said Smith.