Brand Purpose Brand Strategy WFA Global Marketer of the Year

Diageo CMO on its diversity agenda: 45% of our global ads have now been shot by a woman


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

January 19, 2023 | 10 min read

We catch up with Diageo’s chief marketing officer Cristina Diezhandino, who has been nominated for The Drum and the World Federation of Advertisers’ (WFA) Global Marketer of the Year award.


Cristina Diezhandino, chief marketing officer, Diageo / Diageo

Cristina Diezhandino has spent the past 16 years of her marketing career at Diageo, but took on the top role in 2020 where she helped steer the brand through its tumultuous pandemic period.

Under her leadership the company has doubled down on its commitment to inclusivity and diversity, embarking on a training program for both its staff and agencies to improve standards across its brands. She’s also spearheading Diageo's commitment to spend 10% of its marketing budgets with diverse-owned and disadvantaged suppliers and agencies by 2025, and 15% by 2030.

Here, we speak with the marketer about her plans for the year ahead. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

You can vote for Diezhandino to be named Global Marketer of the Year. Voting closes January 31.

This year you have invested heavily in inclusive training for your marketers and agencies. How do you see this positively impacting the marketing output of Diageo already? Can you share any examples?

We are extremely proud of our inclusive design training launch last year, which is now being completed by all 1,200 Diageo marketers and will also be rolled out to our agency partners across the world. The program intends to drive further inclusivity across our products, advertising campaigns, physical brand experiences, and the wider design and creative industry. The end result of putting inclusive design at the heart of our process is a better product or service for everyone, which in turn will make our creative work stronger.

We have put the principles of this novel training into practice. For example, the culture that inspires the work should benefit from its production. This principle drove our Smirnoff Spicy Tamarind design, which was inspired by the Mexican ‘Dia de los Muertos’ tradition. We commissioned a Mexican artist, who lives in Mexico City, to create the artwork, and ensured that the local culture came alive authentically in both the launch campaign and the packaging design such that the culture inspiring the work directly benefits from its production.

This work continues to build our progressive marketing expertise and commitment – we want to create an advertising and media environment where, from script to screen, everyone sees themselves represented. I am really proud to share that, in the last year, 45% of Diageo’s global marketing campaigns were shot by a female director or photographer.

When it comes to your sustainability-led brand initiatives, are you consequently changing the metrics by which you measure the success of your marketing campaigns?

We now measure all our brands on their social and environmental sustainability in our core brand tracking, which looks at the perceptions and equity of our brands over time.

With sustainability being a key focus for the business, it’s part of how we measure the strength and meaningfulness of our brands as well as how that view evolves year on year. We know that consumers’ perception of a brand’s sustainability is inextricably connected to their views and experience on brand quality, progressiveness and how contemporary it is. For that reason, it has become a key aspect of great brand building in my view.

We test specific content and activations against their ability to deliver their specific message with clarity. Through this measurement work, we now know that good sustainability messaging, executed with flair and in a way that is true to the brand, is as good at driving brand appeal as other types of communication, if not more.

What are the biggest challenges facing FMCG marketing leaders today?

The world continues to be a volatile environment for consumers and businesses, and as marketers, being able to respond very quickly to shifts in consumer behavior has never been more important. I believe this presents a real opportunity for those who have a consumer-centric culture and mindset.

Our tracking tools are now more powerful and sophisticated and as a result, we are able to understand consumer sentiment and spot behaviors across the world very fast. We are seeing a high level of divergence in the way that people are responding to a more uncertain world depending on many factors, such as age, income and location. Having said that, we are also seeing how important relationships, socializing, celebrating and treats are for everyone around the world, no exception.

In Fall 2022, almost 90% of consumers told us that socializing with friends was more important or the same as it was earlier in the year and almost two-thirds agreed that being able to treat themselves to something special helps them through hard times. Consumers are protecting the moments that matter – and the work of our brands have the ability to mark and make those moments special.

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In the face of a challenging economic outlook for 2023, how are Diageo’s marketing priorities changing?

Staying close to consumers has never been more important, which is why we are using data analytics and technology to deliver the right message at the right time through the right channel.

Making a positive change to society and the environment will also remain a priority for us in 2023 and beyond.

I’m encouraged by the importance that the industry continues to place on creating an advertising environment where everyone sees themselves represented but our work is never done. We must continue to push and look at what more we can do.

At Diageo, progress in this area is never about one advert or one campaign – it’s about a whole culture and mindset change and we will continue to invest in progress and support minority voices in our work so that all consumers see themselves in our advertising from script to screen. We’re proud to continually outperform industry benchmarks in this area and set ambitious goals such as our new global commitment to spend 10% with diverse-owned and disadvantaged suppliers and agencies by 2025, and 15% by 2030.

On sustainability, first and foremost, our focus is on ensuring our brands are sustainable from grain to glass and we’ll continue to pioneer bold initiatives. In the last year, Baileys launched Ireland’s first Sustainability Farming Academy, Guinness started one of Ireland’s most ambitious regenerative agriculture pilots, we began the removal of 183m cardboard gift boxes from our Scotch portfolio to reduce waste, and Baileys became the largest global spirits brand to join the B Corp movement to date.

In 2022, we started to communicate some of our initiatives to consumers and we’ll be continuing to focus on how we can creatively bring our sustainability efforts to life for them in an honest and transparent way. As marketers, we are uniquely placed to be the voice of the consumer and customer and in Diageo, we believe that we can help close the consumer say-do gap and shape real behavioral change.

What does your marketing mix look like for the year ahead?

In a volatile world, I believe strong leadership is more important than ever, and you’ll see us continue to invest and make bold and brave decisions. These will continue to be grounded in the data culture that we have instilled across the business, both using data and AI to put consumer understanding into fast action, and next-level data analysis to make every pound we spend on marketing count.

You’ll also see the next level of digitization come through our work. As consumer touchpoints become more integrated, we are breaking out of offline and online channel silos, creating a more seamless experience for the consumer, across search, social and brand experiences – online and offline. This is exciting for us, as it means that we can get even more ambitious in the way we combine data, content and media, alongside other channels.

For example, in Ireland, we are building a digital ecosystem that links our Guinness storehouse, on-trade partners and digital experiences. In North America, we are linking our sponsorships (like for Smirnoff and Crown Royal) to dynamic social content. And across the world, the Baileys adult treating experience spans from personalized digital recipe content to pop-up experiences for a decadent cocktail treat.

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