A view from Noelle McElhatton

Diageo's 'shooting for 10' may not be Red Bull-risky but it should restore its creative edge

First we had Unilever's rallying cry to its agencies to...

First we had Unilever's rallying cry to its agencies to bring more magic and less logic to its marketing (Marketing, 25 October 2011). Now Diageo is making a similar challenge to its creative agencies: shoot for 10 and don't worry about hitting a five; it's better than guaranteed, consistent seven's.

Does this mean Diageo is taking a leaf out of the Red Bull book of high-risk marketing?

Unlikely. It feels more like the advertiser is recognising its own heritage. ‘Back to the future’ might be a more appropriate descriptor. After all, Diageo brands have a long and distinguished history of much-loved advertising - as some of the examples in Marketing’s own ’10 out of 10’ test (see this week's magazine) demonstrate.

But Diageo’s move raises several questions, such as whether the mantra will be applied across all the different disciplines, or if this is an advertising-only initiative. Arguably, it's easier to mark a big-budget TV commercial out of 10 than, say, a CRM programme or social media campaign.  

And in the already highly-regulated alcohol sector, will Diageo agency creative teams ever be given the freedom necessary to make D&AD Pencil- and Cannes Lion-winning ads?  

We have to ask, too, if it is possible for the owner of brands sold worldwide to produce global campaigns that have the same cut-through as the UK-only executions we know and love. 

These questions don't negate Diageo's naked ambition.  Again, if we look at Unilever, the Dove ‘real women’ and Persil ‘love dirt’ campaigns demonstrated that much-admired, long-running creative campaigns can translate across marketing disciplines and cultural borders.  

Certainly, if Diageo delivers - the success of Gordon's Gin at the IPA Effectiveness Awards last month is a good start - not only their shareholders, but other marketers, and of course, the consumer, will all be better off.  One has to raise a glass to that.  

Waitrose feels holier-than-thou
Creative budgets should be appropriate to the task, as Diageo would doubtless agree. For that reason, while the sentiment underlying Waitrose’s ‘unglamorous’ Christmas ad may be admirable, its justification feels holier-than-thou. Coming before the launch of sister company John Lewis’ much anticipated campaign, Waitrose’s timing feels a tad mischievous.