4 Ways Diageo Is Taking Control of Making and Tracking Its Digital Ads

The brand is grading media partners on 10 points

Diageo is taking control of its digital media-supply chain. Smirnoff
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COLOGNE, Germany—For years, alcohol and spirits brands have lagged behind in digital advertising because of legal regulations and creative that was designed for television ads. But as more money shifts to digital, Diageo is doing a significant amount of work not only to create more digital campaigns but also track results and manage messy digital media supply chains.

During a 30-minute discussion here at Dmexco, Jerry Daykin, head of global digital media partnerships at Diageo, mentioned a number of programs and initiatives that the spirits brand is working on in digital advertising. The panel was moderated by Nigel Morris, Dentsu Aegis Network’s chief strategy and innovation officer, and Facebook’s vp of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson also spoke.

Here are four of Diageo’s most intriguing current efforts.

1. In-house accountability

Like other big brands, Diageo is digging into its media supply chain and evaluating where its ads run.

At the same time that marketers have been quick to blame tech companies, publishers and agencies for the complexities in digital advertising, Daykin said there’s also an onus on advertisers to clean up the industry, so the brand has started a program called Trusted Marketplace.

“We have very concrete standards and clear transparency in particular for our ads, but we accept as an advertiser we have to do our part with the change as well,” Daykin said.

Four to five months ago, Diageo began grading its media partners (including Amazon, according to Digiday) on 10 criteria, including brand safety, fraud and viewability.

Media partners are also graded on whether their audience is older than legal-drinking age.

“We don’t just want to [have] a traditional brand-safety model—we want to make sure that it’s over the drinking age, avoiding content that we won’t be associated with,” Daykin said. “That’s always been a big issue and consideration for us—we’ve been very tentative … even in driving a big digital transformation, we have never started working with a platform until we’re comfortable.”

Everson also spoke about publishing an op-ed this week that lays out a new set of monetization standards and eligibility that address brand safety, transparency and the platform’s work with 24 third-party verification companies.

“We believe we have a huge responsibility to restore trust and take measures,” she said. “We take this incredibly seriously and our responsibility is to be a leader across all of these dimensions.”

2. Impressions aren’t always the end goal

The worst digital ad experiences happen when promos pop up and block content in formats like slideshow articles, Daykin said.

Those display ads are notorious for juicing impression and click numbers, but if they annoy or slow down an action that consumers are trying to take, brands should evaluate how effective their digital ads are.

“Sometimes there’s a relentless focus on KPIs and dashboards that have taken us to a slightly awkward place,” Daykin said. “We’re really trying to not look at pixels or numbers but look at people and consumer experiences.”

3. Make custom video

Diageo also showed off some of its work with Facebook and Instagram for Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Captain Morgan that make use of short and long-form video.

Interestingly, he noted that his team has been working with Facebook to create some two-second videos specific for the platform, which was also mentioned by P&G’s Marc Pritchard during a keynote on Wednesday night.

“We definitely see that video is a place that consumers are leaning into—they want to I think,” Daykin said. “Video ads are a really positive, interesting way to consume an experience—it doesn’t have to be interruptive, disruptive.”

There’s also long-form video like Guinness’ work with gay rugby player Gareth Thomas.

4. Experiment with ecommerce
While a lot of Diageo’s products are purchased in bars and pubs, the brand is also experimenting with selling its own products through ecommerce.

In one example, Daykin said Diageo recently created 20-minute shoppable videos with Amazon promoting the best cocktails in the world. The videos included links to where consumers could buy the ingredients needed to make the cocktails.

Even though ecommerce and direct sales are a small percentage of sales, the brand is “definitely focused on how we can close that loop.”

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.