Diageo marketing comes under fire from MPs

Andy Fennell, chief marketing officer at Diageo, has come under fire from MPs over a link between the company’s brands and irresponsible drinking.

Andy Fennell
Andy Fennell

Diageo customer insight research that discussed the alcoholic strength of one of the drinks maker’s brands and implied a link between alcohol and masculinity was labelled a “disgrace” by Labour MP Stephen Hesford.

Appearing in front of the Health Committee inquiry on alcohol misuse, Fennell says Diageo has a “strong” internal process to ensure that its marketing does not promote irresponsible drinking, adding that the research was “rejected at stage one”.

“No customer communication could have, would have been actioned from this,” he says.

Fennell also called for tighter regulation, or “external backstops”, of marketing communications on company websites to “catch up” with Diageo’s own internal code of practice on marketing, which he says is the same across all media.

Meanwhile, Committee member Sandra Gidley described existing restrictions aimed at preventing under-18s accessing alcohol brands’ website as “non-existent”.

Hearing evidence from digital agencies AKQA, Five by Five and Bray Leino, several committee members said the process, which prompts entrants to input their date of birth prior to entering the site, was not sufficient to prevent underage drinkers accessing websites.

Dr Howard Stoate, Labour MP for Dartford, says that access to marketing on the sites is not “policeable” and there is “no protection for vulnerable young people and adults”

However, Nick Gill, digital planner with Five by Five, which counts WKD as a client, says the process is a “collective and accepted way of doing things, adding that many ISPs have parental controls that can restrict access to sites.

Also, representatives from creative agencies BJL, JWT, Big Communications and BMB defended the current regulatory system for alcohol advertising.

Charlotte Thompson, head of business development at, BJL, which handles Lambrini, says “The UK regulatory system is held up as an example of best practice across Europe”.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here