'Courage is contagious': Diageo CMO on gender balance in advertising

Alcohol brand releases film addressing diversity and inclusion across its creative output.

Diageo, which owns alcohol brands including Guinness and Johnnie Walker, has created a short film to champion gender balance in advertising ahead of International Women's Day tomorrow (8 March).

The work shares how Diageo has addressed diversity and inclusion across its creative output and discusses the role of advertising in shaping culture. It also shows the historic misrepresentation of women in advertising and how to support more progressive portrayals.

In the short film Diageo highlights the work of organisations including Creative Equals, Free the Bid and WACL in driving change across the industry. The film also highlights disparities such as the fact that only 9% of ads are directed by women.

Diageo chief marketing officer Syl Saller said: "Through the millennia, culture has been shaped by the stories we tell and if you think about it advertising is telling stories that are backed by billions of dollars to have them heard. I am convinced we can normalise gender equality with what we choose to show in our ads, and who we choose to make them."

Saller, who has written to all of Diageo’s agencies to personally request statistics on gender pay gaps and gender diversity, said that "courage is contagious". She explained: "We strongly believe that diverse teams create all kinds of different stories, stories that portray men and women as they really are, stories that are eminently relatable."

Diageo has also reviewed its creative work globally to see where it needs to improve on progressive gender portrayal and is training its 1,200 marketers and agencies globally in a comprehensive framework covering representation, agency, perspective and characterisation of gender in advertising.

The film is released as 50 women take part in the Creative Equals ‘Returners’ scheme, which is designed to support women in the UK creative industries as they return to work after a career break of at least 12 months. The ultimate aim is to place female art directors, producers, copywriters, data analysts, designers and concept creators back into work.

Diageo is a sponsor of the scheme and the group of returners will work on briefs for two of Diageo’s global brands – Baileys and Guinness.

The film was shot by Quite Frankly Productions and produced and directed by Lies Deneys.