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Communicating about alcohol responsibly

Tackling alcohol misuse and promoting sensible drinking are responsibilities shared by a wide range of stakeholders. But when it comes to communicating about its products, we believe that the alcohol industry plays a leading role.

Not only do we take seriously our own obligations to market our brands responsibly to adults but, in a business where everyone's reputation suffers if one player doesn't do the right thing, we work in partnership to drive common industry standards.

Our approach

Three principles embody our approach to establishing rigorous standards for marketing and helping consumers make informed decisions about drinking - or not drinking.


The highlight of the year for Diageo has been refreshing the Diageo Digital Code to reflect our ongoing commitment to ensuring that online marketing is as responsible as that in traditional media. To this end, we have designed and delivered a company-wide training course for all relevant marketers and third-party agencies.

2012 has also been a landmark year in industry self-regulation, with the agreement of global responsible marketing standards, European and US digital guidelines for distilled spirits and the European Responsible Marketing Pact.

Following our own codes

Governing us and the third parties with whom we partner, the DMC is our mandatory minimum marketing standard. It applies across all our markets and guides every aspect of our activities, from research and development to marketing, promotion and packaging. We review it every 12 to 18 months to ensure it addresses evolving issues in the marketplace. It is complemented by our Digital Code of Practice, which sets out ten core principles ranging from ensuring our marketing is directed at adults over the legal purchase age to monitoring user-generated content.

We strive for strict compliance with our own codes and in general we have sustained a strong performance, tracked via an online tool that governs all our marketing campaigns. We work hard to help ensure that 100% of our marketing fully observes the DMC and Digital Code and this year we achieved 99.8% compliance. While this is a good achievement, we nevertheless continue to aspire to total compliance.

An important mandatory aspect of the DMC is the extent to which responsible drinking reminders are included in our above-the-line marketing material - so much so that we monitor it as a target. This year, an audit revealed excellent results, with 100% of our above-the-line marketing material complying with the Code.

Promoting and abiding by rigorous industry codes

We believe that the industry as a whole should follow standards of a similar level to those we set within Diageo. We seek to abide by industry self- or co-regulation codes in every market where they exist and work with industry bodies to establish them where they don't. For example, this year alone self-regulatory codes for beverage alcohol have been agreed in countries as diverse as Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico and Ghana. This means that since 2008 more than 20 new national responsible marketing codes for alcohol have been introduced.

We manage our business with strict observance of all local regulations and laws, including those governing marketing. Some countries don't allow advertising of alcohol - and we respect that rule.

Five of the industry bodies that have established self-regulatory codes publicly report breaches, and Diageo was responsible for two out of a total of 27 of those publicly reported across the industry this year. These are outlined in the table following. The industry bodies that monitor these self-regulatory codes do not impose fines, so we aren't reporting on any here. Nevertheless, removing the offending marketing can be a costly lesson for any company. The consequences include reputational damage and, in some instances, additional controls, such as being subject to mandatory pre-clearance for future advertising. In these two cases outlined here we took corrective action to ensure the mistakes were immediately addressed, and also tried to learn wider lessons - for example, taking offending material down, and retraining the agencies and internal departments responsible.

Complaints about advertising upheld by industry
bodies that report publicly (2012)
Country Industry body Complaints upheld Notes
Australia Alcohol Beverage Advertising Code (ABAC) Diageo brands 1

All alcohol beverages 4
August 2011, Bundaberg Five rum advertisement found in breach of the code for implying that drinking Bundaberg Five rum would lead to a  significant change in mood and environment.
Ireland Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) Diageo brands 1

All alcohol beverages 4
July 2011, Guinness found partly in breach of the Code in its SURGE TOWARDS GREATNESS advertisement.  The complaint was upheld on the grounds that the advertisement could be interpreted as suggesting a causal link between drinking Guinness and achieving greatness.
United Kingdom The Portman Group Diageo brands 0

All alcohol beverages 6
United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Diageo brands 0

All alcohol beverages 8
United States Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) Diageo brands 0

All alcohol beverages 5

Making information available to consumers

Ensuring that consumers have the information they need remains a priority for us. The Diageo Alcohol Beverage Information Policy (DABIP) stipulates that all new product launches, packaging renovations and promotional packaging changes include responsible drinking reminders, allergen information, alcohol by volume and a link to, Diageo's responsible drinking website, on the primary packaging. We also publish key nutritional information about our products on, and on packaging where this material is required by law. Our process for implementing DABIP is organic and we are rolling out the policy as brands are renovated or launched.

Last year we reported that we were in the process of developing a comprehensive compliance report for DABIP. This has now been completed and has helped to reveal that while we are on track with implementing the policy with our spirits and beer brands, some of our wine brands are putting on their websites rather than on the label. We will seek to rectify this next year.

Reporting frameworks in this section

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