Virtual Booze: Diageo Taps Second Life

The beverage company's marketing spreads to the virtual world, but issues of security and reputation concern CIO Dargue

Changing consumer trends and the new generation of young "digital natives" are forcing drinks giant Diageo to exploit new digital marketing channels such as the virtual world Second Life.

Robin Dargue, Diageo's CIO and business process director - recently voted one of the UK's top 50 CIOs - said the company now has a presence in Second Life to market the company's brands, which include Baileys, Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff.

Speaking at the Forrester IT Forum in Edinburgh this week, he said: "The changing face of our consumers, I have a real issue with. These people don't watch TV so I can't advertise to them. That is a problem if you are in FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods]. This is a world of digital marketing."

One of the issues for Diageo is ensuring the company doesn't break any regulations or its own strong code of ethics by unwittingly marketing its drinks to "underage" avatars in virtual bars in Second Life.

He said: "The worry isn't around technology and robustness but corporate governance and reputation."

Dargue said he sees the increasing use of consumer technology by his own employees as an "opportunity and a challenge" rather than a threat but admitted security and protecting the company's reputation are critical.

He said: "We sponsor virtual bars. But you can't get into Second Life from the Diageo network. The marketing guys have to go home to get onto Second Life... but the security guys are protecting the organisation."

Bill Nagel, researcher at Forrester, said despite the security threats posed by new consumer-based tools and technologies, the answer isn't to simply lock-down the entire corporate network.

He said: "Not all information needs to be protected. Only put high-levels of security around data you cannot afford to lose. Consumer technology is very useful and is not going to go away."

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