Diageo’s programmatic boss Gawain Owen departs after 6 months

Diageo's head of programmatic departs after 6 months

Diageo’s first head of programmatic has departed after just six months to join digital agency Jellyfish as digital strategy director.

Gawain Owen’s arrival at Diageo after a four-year stint at FMCG-giant Nestle – where he was programmatic media manager – was a landmark move for the drinks maker as it sought greater control over its programmatic buying.

At the time, his appointment to the newly created role saw him take on responsibility for “programmatic capabilities and developing new and exciting partnerships in this field” across Diageo’s brands, which include Smirnoff, Guinness and Gordon’s gin.

The Drum has contacted Diageo on his exit and replacement but was awaiting comment at the time of writing.

Owen has made a name for himself in the industry as a particularly outspoken marketer having taken a strong stance on issues such as brand safety and ad fraud. While at Nestle, he called out his peers for failing to brief agencies in the right way and frequently spoke of the transparency and trust issues that have plagued programmatic trading.

Google sits at the heart of many of these challenges and has been battling in recent months to improve relations with advertisers after it was revealed that many household name brands had been inadvertently appearing next to extremist content, namely on YouTube.

Jellyfish, meanwhile, has previously touted the unique relationship it has with the online giant. Chief executive Rob Pierre has said that “if we could rename as Google Services Limited we would” and that, while it is “technology agnostic”, it “only really uses Google”.

How Owen navigates such issues as he moves to the agency – which counts Toyota, Experian, Nestle, and Samsung among its clients – remains to be seen, however a key part of the role will see him work with clients on how they "can best tool up to ensure they are well equipped to achieve their business goals in a digital world".

“In an age of personalisation, brands are striving to get the right message to the right person at the right time. Programmatic plays a key role in this and soon I believe it will need to plug into every aspect of a marketer’s armoury," said Owen.

"Having worked with Jellyfish over the years, I’ve seen first hand that the agency operates a fully transparent model, which is essential for both the client / agency relationship and the future of our industry. I’m excited to be joining an agency that is at the forefront of digital and that has become synonymous with performance and transformation.”

He will join Jellyfish on 1 August.

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