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Technology Diageo Guinness

Diageo is quietly building a digital powerhouse to recalibrate its brands for younger generations


By Rebecca Stewart | Trends Editor

May 3, 2017 | 5 min read

After fits and spurts Diageo is making a concerted push to move with the times via a self-proclaimed Centre for Digital Excellence which will seek to make sure its roster of global brands appeals to a fresh generation of drinkers.


Last year the group was one of the first to use Instagram's new ad slots to promote Guinness

Drinks giant Diageo is assembling an international team of specialists to “lead it to the edge of digital,” and push forward its global marketing capabilities across the 180 countries it advertises in.

In the past few months alone, the group behind Guinness, Baileys, Smirnoff and other household names has posted around 10 ads seeking marketers to work within or in partnership with its new Digital Centre for Excellence.

At present, the roles advertised are focused in the UK and APAC, but previous listings have indicated openings in the US for a head of digital tech innovation. Other current vacancies include: marketing technology partner, global digital tech director and social insights manager.

From the openings posted so far, it appears the digital powerhouse will focus on innovation and data. The global digital tech director will head up a specific digital technology unit, while in South East Asia a regional media manager will be tasked with working with local markets and agencies "to craft and activate solid media ecosystems" for the brand. In London, the social insights manager will leverage value from social data, as well as managing how insight is delivered from social listening.

The drinks behemoth has been quietly building up its digital taskforce over the past nine months. Last summer, it promoted Isabel Massey from head of media and futures for Europe to global digital director with a remit to lead the marketing arm the Digital Centre of Excellence. Just a few weeks later it tapped former iProspect executive Ben Sutherland as chief digital officer, then Nestle’s digital exec Gawain Owen was wooed into serving as its first programmatic head of media. Ex-Mondelez and Carat digital partner Jerry Daykin was next to jump ship, and was named as head of digital media partnerships.

"With an audacious ambition, the Digital Centre of Excellence has been created to lead Diageo to the edge of digital and push forward our global marketing capabilities across 180 countries and 29 category-leading brands," reads the blurb on the job descriptions.

A call for digital experts comes amid a more concerted push for the medium from the Irish-based firm across its portfolio in a bid to attract a younger, and more wide-ranging, audience.

In March, Diageo notably appointed R/GA as Guinness' first digital agency of record with a brief to focus on online talkability, social reach and mentions. Some marketers have anticipated that a move towards social storytelling could help the 258 year-old brand broaden its appeal – but the need to do that isn't a challenge faced by the Irish stout alone.

During the company's 2016 earnings update in January, chief executive Ivan Menezes said that for the Smirnoff brand, a focus on recruiting millennials through activations centered around dance music helped stablise the vodka's performance.

"There is more work to do however in recruiting and re-recruiting multicultural consumers as well as the Gen-X and baby boomer consumers, who are core to the consumer base," he said at the time. To do this, Menezes said that on top of raising brand awareness, the group would use "targeted innovations" to promote the drink.

More recently, reports surfaced that Johnnie Walker was in early discussions with agencies about a mysterious digital project which Diageo said would have no bearing on Anomaly's status as the whisky brand's lead agency partner.

Menzes has told investors that in North America, the businesses' largest and most profitable marketing, digital spend will be up fivefold in 2017 as it continues its focus on the recruitment of millennial and multicultural consumers.

While there has been no official statement from Diageo on its new digital hub, the job postings hint that further digital evolution and a more refined approach is to be expected. A shift towards this follows on from the consolidation of its global roster of media agencies at the end of last year, which was orchestrated to deliver a "best in class" approach and incorporate its "data-driven" blueprint.

Technology Diageo Guinness

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