Marketing Agencies4Growth Diageo

Diageo procurement boss: ‘Agencies continue to be vital to brands, and here’s why...’

By Janelle Orozco | chief procurement officer

October 21, 2020 | 5 min read

As part of this week’s Agencies4Growth Festival, we’ve asked some of the brightest minds in marketing why agencies matter today. Here, Janelle Orozco, Diageo’s chief procurement officer, tells us why her brand so values its agency relationships.


'For global businesses like Diageo, agencies with global networks and experience help us build brands'

In a world where elements of work previously done by agencies are being brought in-house and transparency is still being debated, some think the role of an agency has become less relevant. Do they still matter to brands and companies? The short answer is ‘yes‘. The obvious next question is ‘why?‘

Talent, skills and truth-telling

As brands seek to navigate more and more complex challenges, such as relevancy and reach in an omnichannel world, accessing the very best talent and skills is critical.

Much of this talent will already be in-house, but agencies bring different experiences and perspectives where a company or brand may need it at a given moment. They give you access to skills that you might need for a period of time, or lead skills that you need now until you can develop them internally.

The best agencies can be truth tellers, helping you see what you are missing. One of the elements we used to determine the agency partner in a recent pitch was ability to deliver ‘radical candour’. Brands and companies can benefit from an external perspective to hold up a mirror or shine a light on something that can be missed when you are too close to the problem or too wedded to how things have always been done.

Great agencies have a breadth of perspective from working with clients across sectors and, often, around the world. As a procurement leader, the questions I often ask are: ‘What are others doing that we might learn from?’ Or: ‘Is there something stopping us from getting the best from you?’ Radical candour is not an easy thing to ask for, nor is it easy for an agency to provide. Creating the environment for trust at all touchpoints in the relationship (not just at the top) is key.

Agencies help us build global brands

For global businesses like Diageo, agencies with global networks and experience help us build brands that are both globally consistent and locally relevant.

This is particularly helpful on brands such as Guinness, where we’ll often have a varying ‘lead’ market on our briefs. For example, a recent idea for Guinness needed to be led from Nigeria to be relevant locally, while still fitting within the global framework and platform for the brand. Our long-time agency BBDO led out of London while pulling in an account lead and creative talent from Lagos. The result was global work that ensures local nuances and context to be culturally relevant.

Another example is current work with Mother on Baileys where it is flexibly including creative oversight from its NY office to ensure it meets the needs of the consumers on both sides of the pond. An agency’s ability to flex resource and pull on knowledge from within its network, from different offices or regions, is invaluable when making representative and resonating work.

External partners can help yield magic

Then, of course, there is the magic of the work agencies co-create alongside marketing teams. A great example of this is work done with Anomaly on Johnnie Walker.

Back in January 2019, we recognized the need to develop a unifying platform idea for Johnnie Walker, which would deliver engaging and iconic comms to impact culture. We needed work that could flex across media channels, diverse markets around the world and a breadth of core variants from Red Label to Blue Label.

The output of our collaborative work with Anomaly gave us a potent reframe of Johnnie Walker’s brand positioning, a transformational marketing approach that transcends the category while refreshing our purpose-built model to disrupt and deliver against our vision for the brand.

The work has been executed beautifully across iconic locations including Times Square and Piccadilly Circus, as well as socially, while also incorporating through-the-line thinking with the creation of six new mixed drinks (the highball collection) that encourage trial and make the brand more accessible to those that have never tried Johnnie Walker.

In summary, agencies continue to be vital to brands and can be a source of competitive advantage when they fit culturally, commercially and strategically.

Now, how do you pick the right agency and get the most value out of the relationship, you ask? That is a topic for a different day.

Marketing Agencies4Growth Diageo

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