How Facebook Became a ‘Central Part’ of All Diageo’s Campaigns

Blockbuster Commercials Are Still Key, But the Approach Has Evolved

AdAge notes: As the marketer behind blockbuster commercials for Guinness such as “Surfer” and “Noitulove,” Andy Fennell earned his reputation as a champion of groundbreaking work.

Since 2008, when he was elevated to CMO of Diageo’s massive global portfolio, including Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Baileys, Smirnoff, Cîroc, Captain Morgan and Tanqueray, he has been applying his high creative standards around the world while growing sales and profit.

In the second half of 2011, Mr. Fennell’s marketing budget jumped 10% to $1.5 billion, and his team’s efforts helped Diageo grow profit 9%, sales 7% and volume 3%.

Ad Age: You’re on the Facebook Council, an advisory group. How does that work, and is it useful to you?

Andy Fennell: It’s important for marketers to listen to people in the middle of all the change that’s happening, and Facebook is certainly one of those.

Facebook shows us products they’re thinking of launching, so we can give them feedback, and they ask us to drive the agenda based on what’s on our minds.

For some of us, emerging markets are really important, so we want to make sure that Facebook services consumers that have a different relationship with technology with a good product that works as well on mobile as it does on PC.

Ad Age: How important is Facebook and other social media in Diageo’s marketing mix?

Mr. Fennell: Facebook is now just a central part of all of our campaigns. We do manage the community, because the tone of voice on Facebook needs to be a bit different — you need to have the voice of a human — but what we’re talking to our consumers about on Facebook is the same content that we’re talking about in other places.

What we’re trying to do is use Facebook as an accelerator of our ideas rather than see it as its own standalone thing.

Ad Age: How do you measure success on social media?

Mr. Fennell: There’s a lot of data — it’s like drinking from a fire hydrant.

We’ve got 20 million fans on Facebook, so we’ve done the scale thing, and funnily enough, when you get to 20 million, the next 5 million are dead easy, because it just snowballs. So a more important metric now is how people are engaging with content we put up. Are they sourcing our content from YouTube and putting it onto their Facebook pages? Facebook is also working with us to assess more formal ROI evaluations. Google and Apple are doing that as well.

Ad Age: You’ve been associated with a lot of blockbuster commercials. Is there still a role for that?

Mr. Fennell: We are still about blowing the socks off consumers. To think that the only way a piece of content can be good is if it’s cheap as chips and shot on a phone is just wrong. We’re doing some audacious stuff like the Johnnie Walker “Keep Walking Brazil” commercial, which had 250,000 views on Facebook before we’d even launched it on TV. Bang. Drove sales. Drove equity. Andy’s happy.

What’s different is the way we engage with the consumer using all the technologies. Sometimes you need 90 seconds to tell a story, and thank God we can now do that without having to pay traditional-media charges. With Guinness’ “Surfer” [in 1999], it had to be 60 seconds. It cost a fortune because the only option we had was traditional media, whereas now we could buy a few spots and then let it go viral.

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