Part Two: “We should see ourselves as business leaders”: Andrew Geoghegan on mature media use, effectiveness culture and diversity

This year, Andrew Geoghegan, global head of consumer planning at Diageo, joined the Effie judging panel to assess the effectiveness of New Zealand’s advertising. Following the judging, Erin McKenzie sat down with him to talk about New Zealand’s strengths, weaknesses and the change-makers marketers have the power to be. PART TWO.

Read part one of the interview with Andrew Geoghegan here.

Culture is key

Beyond “effectiveness culture”, Geoghegan looks at culture within an organisation as a whole, saying 90 percent of everything they do is down to culture, the environment, and the permission they give people to make mistakes and learn.

Looking at his own team as an example, he says his team is large and globally dispersed so he doesn’t have time to micromanage.

Instead, he sees his role as one to create a compelling vision for what his team need to do in order to drive transformational growth.

And while there is a vision for what that team need to achieve, contributing to that are the perspectives of team members from around the world.

Geoghegan has 17 nationalities in his team, adding diversity also means “gender, sexuality and everything else”.

That helps us to really be able to make sense of things and leverage diverse and diverging perspectives

“If we’re all the same, and we’re all working in the same way, and we’re all checking each others’ work, it’s inefficient – and not fun.”

This thinking doesn’t only apply to organisations on the client-side of the industry. And with Diageo recognising its importance, Geoghegan says it’s been quite vocal in being demanding of its agencies to also create an inclusive environment.

Part of this saw it put that in a letter to its agencies last year.

“We want to be a positive force of change in agency culture to ensure they have a mix of interesting and different talent to create a working culture that’s great.”

Diageo has also signed up to external initiatives with an aim to improve diversity with one of those being ‘Free the bid’.

The idea behind it is to guarantee women creative directors an equal opportunity to bid on commercial jobs in the advertising world by having ad agencies, production companies and brands pledge together to get one woman director to bid on every job.

Now, every time one of Diageo’s agencies pitches an idea, they have put a female director forward as well as a man and Geoghegan says it’s been really-successful.

Alongside this, earlier this year, Diageo became the exclusive sponsor of the briefs for Creative Equals #CreativeComeback scheme.

Creative Equals is an initiative founded by Ali Hanan to encourage inclusiveness culture in workplaces that will then drive inclusive work on screens and in media.

Its #CreativeComeback scheme supports women in the creative industries return to work after a break of at least 15 months.

Diageo’s support of this saw it give women access to its briefs to create work before they attended a four-day programme and later a job placement.

As a result of the work, Geoghegan says about 40 women ended up back in work in various agencies.

It’s seen as such a success, Diageo is looking to support Creative Equals in more countries around the world.

And the hope is it’s not just a driver for change in advertising, but for all aspects of society, Geoghegan sees marketing as being a discrete agent for social change.

“We put our advertising out to the work and what’s in there has the potential to positively shape or constrain how people see themselves.

“If we have restrictive and narrow stereotypes of people in there we are implicitly narrowing how people see themselves and what they can be.

“If we have more progressive portrayals of people then we’re encouraging, in a quiet way, for people to see their potential as much bigger.”

Partnering up

Alongside working to improve diversity in agencies, Diageo is also conscious of how it’s working with its partners to improve how they can best work together.

“It’s essential that our partners are extensions of our team and that they are working to the same long term objectives as we are and that we treat them as a partner, not in a transactional way.

“We build shared culture and values like how you work and how you reward and how you think about what’s in it for the agency?”

In talking about this, Geoghegan gives the example of Guinness working with AMV BBDO for 21 years – which he calls an unusually long relationship.

Throughout those years, there have been good times and hard times but helping both agency and client rise the wave has been a “no fault, no blame relationship”.

“When things don’t work, it’s very easy for marketers to go ‘they did that, it’s their fault’, whereas when things go well, they say ‘we did that’. But the truth is, when things go badly it’s often because of the conditions that are created around the agency.”

If the agency didn’t understand the brief, clients need to understand they might not have briefed well.

The Effie winners are a representation of how client and agency can work together to generate results.

But if the awards are about celebrating effective work – should they be held annually?

To this question, Geoghegan says “yes”.

“What you would hope to see reflected in the work is consistency over time. If you think about Pak’nSave, it’s never won an Effie before and the campaign has been going for 12 years.”

To this, he’s like to see brands re-entering, maybe not every year, to show what that have achieved and how they’ve learned and evolved over that time.

On top of the celebration of effectiveness, he says it’s also important to celebrate the industry.

“It is a way of bringing the industry together to review and look at the standards of work that’s there and I don’t think that need to be at odds with long term work.”

He uses this as an opportunity to highlight some of his favourite pieces of New Zealand work, including Mercury, Testicular Cancer NZ’s ‘Auto Ball Checker’, NZTA’s work to get people wearing seatbelts and NZ Police recruitment videos.

“The work is imaginative, socially responsible, very creative. It’s just really great work.”

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