Diageo’s head of culture departs to link brands to cultural influence – but not influencers

Leila Fataar launches Platform 13

Leila Fataar, Diageo’s first – and now former – head of culture and entertainment for Europe, has a lot to say about the state of modern marketing. Content is at “saturation point”, influencer marketing is totally “misunderstood” and marketers and consumers alike have reached a point of “social media fatigue".

Rather than bitching about this on panels and penning numerous opinion pieces on the matter, Fataar has taken the decision to fix these problems by leaving her (presumably comfortable) role at Diageo to launch Platform 13. The business’ boilerplate describes the venture as a 'multidisciplinary', 'created to break the current influencer marketing and content factory mould we currently find ourselves in’.

In other words, rather than hooking clients up with Zoella and co for a quick and not inexpensive #ad post, Platform 13 will connect the real influencers – the DJs, the artists, the spoken-word poets, the up-and-coming fashion directors – with brands looking to make a genuine contribution to a particular culture.

“I don’t think influencer marketing is as new as everybody thinks it is,” Fataar told The Drum. “What’s happened is we became obsessed with scale and so tried to automate [influencer marketing]. A much more bespoke service is needed for it to cut through, so Platform 13 is going old school in a world of automation and crowdsourcing, and influencers in inverted commas.”

If any industry bod can pull off bringing the authentic cultural scene into the orbit of brand directors, it’s Fataar. A couple of hours swapping stories with her proves she really does know everyone who’s anyone, having creatively directed her own agency, Spin, for 10 years before heading to that pinnacle of cultural influence – Adidas Originals – as its global PR and social director. She joined Diageo as its first ever head of culture and entertainment in November 2015.

“I feel like there’s a translation issue between creativity and corporate,” said Fataar. “I think the ability I have after 20 years in the business … the ability to turn business objectives into creative plans and then look at creative plans and make sure they ladder up to business objectives, is the key to Platform 13.”

This translation service is one of three structural components of the new business. The other two are: the leveraging of Fataar’s vast network of creative freelancers and SMEs (a group that is “going to get bigger and bigger as people realise they can work and live too”), which will liven the pace at which big businesses can move in the cultural space; and quite simply “the execution of the brief”.

“I’ve sometimes seen examples where I’m sure the vision was absolutely on point, the strategy was on point but when it came to the execution, it didn’t match up to the original vision,” explained Fataar. “Again, this ability to speak in both corporate and creative languages means hopefully the output will be right for both parties in involved.”

So far, so conceptual, but perhaps the best tangible example of what Fataar hopes to achieve at scale is the Smirnoff Equalizing Music programme from Diageo, which happens to be Platform 13’s first client. The project aims to double the number of female music headliners at festivals – an ambitious task, but one it’s given itself three years to achieve.

Fataar is only interested in working with similarly minded brands that have the ability to play the long game when it comes to cultural influence, those that are brave enough to think outside of the fiscal year. She also wants to offer her ‘bolt-on’ service to marketers who are interested in the world outside of social media’s trusty metrics.

“The way people are [having conversations] is through dark social – Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram stories,” said Fataar. “People don’t want that permanency, they don’t want everything to be seen and they want to avoid social media as it becomes more and more like an advertising platform.

“It’s very hard for people to talk about ads in these conversations. They’ll talk about an action that’s affected them, or something a brand’s done that’s beyond advertising.”

She admits “there’s an issue with measuring conversation inside those channels”, and marketers can be uneasy about zoning in on them because there’s no advertising space in the dark social realm. “But that’s where everyone is,” she said. “The brand may never know that’s happening, but hopefully that will one day translate to sales.”

Diageo’s new head of culture and entertainment for Europe has yet to be named, although the brand continues to prove its dedication to authentic purpose by naming Anne Nosko, formerly of Grey London, Leo Burnett and Atelier, as its first director of culture and entertainment, media and futures in Europe. Platform 13 also officially launched at the end of last week, entering an ad-blocked market obsessed with influencer market with the motto: ‘RIP influencer marketing, long live influence’.

“For brands, flexibility outside of the brand guidelines can be a scary thing,” Fataar wrote in a blog. “But it really doesn't have to. Ensuring that the choice of cultural partners and brands are matched by their values, characteristic and/or purpose, usually results in even more impactful activity and subsequent content.”

Katie Deighton

Katie Deighton is The Drum’s senior reporter - creative and video based in London. She produces, films, presents and edits the title’s editorial video output, including series such as On The Scene, Ad Breakers and Why I Left Advertising, and manages its coverage of the creative sector. She also reports on the intersection between politics and marketing, as well as the third sector and fashion.

All by Katie