CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- As U.S. media director for the world's largest spirits company, Susan Jones is tasked with creating narrowly targeted media plans for all the brands in a staggeringly diverse portfolio.
It's her job to find ways to reach the former frat-boy pranksters who drink Captain Morgan, the P-Diddy acolytes who drink Ciroc and the clubby CEO types who opt for Johnnie Walker Blue. And she has to do it while adhering to a strict marketing code that restricts what the brands can do -- and when they can do it -- in mainstream channels.
"Sue has a unique ability to identify the core issue facing a brand down," said Jon Dobbin, a senior partner at Mediacom, and the group media director of the agency's long-held Diageo account. "There are so many brands and so many approaches ... she knows how to distill each one down."
That talent -- which Mr. Dobbin observed working alongside Ms. Jones for 10 years at MediaCom -- drove him to recommend her for the Diageo job, even though she rarely worked on the account during her time there.
At the agency, Ms. Jones focused primarily on Volkswagen and Pharmacia, now part of Pfizer, managing brands such as Rogaine, Celebrex and CortAid. She said working in pharmaceuticals and spirits aren't as different as one might think, because both fields are constantly finding new channels and platforms opening to them.
She's played a key role in helping Diageo move into some sports platforms that were never previously available to it, inking deals with the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. Those platforms, and many others, are becoming available as major sports leagues look to offset cutbacks by traditional big spenders in the auto and financial services sectors.
Ms. Jones, 38, has helped Diageo relaunch Ketel One, which it acquired in early 2008. Ketel had been marketed exclusively through print campaigns, but Ms. Jones helped steer it into ambitious digital and television plays for its new "Gentlemen, this is vodka" platform in a bid to raise awareness. The online incarnation of the campaign eschewed the category's reliance on microsites for a heavy focus on online video hubs such as Hulu. "There's always a temptation to run after the shiny button," she said. "But if nobody sees it, it doesn't help."
But it seems to be helping in this case: Diageo executives told Wall Street analysts that Ketel One's results are ahead of expectations, despite a brutal environment for super-premium spirits brands.
Internally, Mr. Dobbin credits Ms. Jones with engineering a "total revamp of how we approach the business," installing new analytics and systems that help the marketer and its agency better evaluate how it deploys its $536.6 million U.S. advertising budget.