Diageo considers refreshing agency roster to make way for indies and in-housing

Tanqueray worked with indie shop St Luke's in London at the end of last year on a global campaign

Diageo is considering a review of its advertising rosters to include more independent agencies, The Drum understands. The reshuffle comes as it also contemplates what part of its marketing mix, if any, to in-house.

The move towards hiring more independent creative agencies comes as the global alcohol company, which owns brands such as Johnnie Walker, Guinness and Bailey's, has appointed New York-based independent creative agency Yard to work on Tanqueray, one of its gin brands.

In the face of transformation and upheaval within the big global holding companies, brands are increasingly looking to independents to deliver more courageous creative.

As part of its agency shakedown last year Ford added Wieden + Kennedy to its global roster for project work and set up an in-house dealer agency to work alongside Omnicom. In the UK, Unilever handed its entire homecare business to indie outfit AnalogFolk, while retailer Marks & Spencer has just appointed ODD to handle its home and clothing creative.

Diageo has its own history of collaborating with independent agencies, with Love in Manchester having worked with Johnnie Walker for many years, Forsman & Bodenfors acting as agency of record to Seagrams 7 Crown whiskey and Barton F Graf having been a regular servant on Diageo brands like Ketel One Vodka and Bulleit Bourbon.

Tanqueray, meanwhile, worked with St Luke's in London at the end of last year on a global campaign following the brand's split with Omnicom-owned creative shop Adam&EveDDB earlier in 2019.

Elsewhere, the group's desire to in-house some of its advertising services follows a trial with Oliver Group in Amsterdam, which could result in a wider move across Europe.

A Diageo spokesperson said: “We are constantly reviewing our agency ecosystem and testing solutions to ensure we have a future-facing marketing model. We don’t see this as a question of in-housing vs non-in-housing – it’s about doing the right things with the right talent, in the right places, to increase our marketing effectiveness and grow our business. We currently don’t have any news to report.”

Last month, The Drum revealed the outcome that followed an open letter penned by chief marketing officer Syl Saller to the Guinness owner's agencies around the need to improve their gender diversity pay gaps.

The result found a strong representation of women in the leadership teams of Diageo’s ad agency partners – an average of 47%. However, just 30% of women were found to be in the top roles when it came to creative departments.

Following the story being published, a Diageo spokesperson said of the potential agency review: "We do not have a specific strategy to increase independent agency work. Our approach is to always look for the right agency for the task in hand."

Other independent agencies appointed to work with Diageo brands, including Jungle Creations which has worked with Bailey's and Fold7 which worked on global projects including a new product launch and work for Talisker.

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