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Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 12:38 GMT
Highlands cleared from whisky campaign

Johnnie Walker graphic The Striding Man will have a higher profile

The world's biggest spirits company is dropping images of misty mountains and kilted pipers as part of its global advertising strategy for Johnnie Walker whisky.

Diageo is launching a 100m campaign to boost sluggish sales by appealing to a younger generation who still regard whisky as a "dad's" drink in a fireside armchair.

The imagery of Scotland has become cliched and stereotyped
Ivan Menenzes
The campaign focuses on the brand's Striding Man logo as a symbol of everyone's personal journey in life and features such diverse characters as actor Harvey Keitel, Abraham Lincoln and a pair of father and son French tightrope walkers.

Out go images of Bravehearts, castles and old men waxing lyrical about past times over a nip or two.

Ivan Menezes, head of global marketing at Diageo's drinks unit United Distillers and Vinters (UDV), said: "We've tended to put Scotch up on a pedestal. It's been skewed towards older, knowing consumers.

"The imagery of Scotland has become cliched and stereotyped and not that relevant to today's young adults."

Sales hit by slump

In the 1980s, sales began to slow in "mature" markets like the United States and the UK, where drinkers were turning increasingly to lighter, mixable white spirits like vodka.

Sales continued to grow in developing markets like Latin America and Asia until both regions were hit by economic crises.

Mel Gibson in Braveheart Out: Braveheart images
In 1998, volume sales of Johnnie Walker Red Label fell 6% and Black Label tumbled 13%, although sales of both appear to have rebounded slightly last year along with most Asian economies.

Overall the global market for Scotch whisky has grown slowly, carried almost entirely by the growth of premium and single malt whiskies, the one type that seems to appeal to younger drinkers in the US and UK.

Diageo relies on Scotch to generate a quarter of the volume and half the profits of its spirits division, and Scotch is one of the UK's top five export earners, contributing 2bn a year.

Industry 'complacent'

"The industry needs to be more dynamic and recruit younger drinkers in the 'mature' markets like the United States," said Alan Gray, an analyst at Sutherlands brokerage in Edinburgh and a leading expert on the industry.

"Overall, it has been a bit complacent in the past 20 years, and missed a generation of drinkers."

Guinness logo Diageo owns Guinness
Last September, Diageo said business overall was bouncing back, following disappointing first-half results.

The group, whose brand names include Burger King, Smirnoff vodka, Guinness beer and Pillsbury bakery goods, reported a 4.5% drop in annual profits.

But it said sales growth returned in the second half of the year, boosted by strong growth in Europe and the US and a recovery in the Far East. Operating profits rose 15% in the second half.

Diageo, formed by the merger of Guinness and GrandMet in December 1997, said it was seeing the benefits of that merger now the integration was complete.

Annual pre-tax profits fell to 1.767bn ($2.83bn) for the year to June 30, while the year dividend was raised 8% to 19.5 pence a share.

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See also:
16 Sep 99 |  The Company File
Diageo fortunes froth up
16 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Whisky duty leaves sour taste
25 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Sour taste as whisky record stands
11 Mar 99 |  The Company File
Drop in booze profits

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