How did Diageo’s Jane Walker make it into the Time 100?

It’s good news that advertising is represented in Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2019, but kind of strange that it’s an illustrated character whose inclusion looks confusingly like it could be part of a paid partnership.

Jane Walker appears in the “Pioneers” section of the report, and her story is written up by Pam Elam, part of the Monumental Women Campaign for whom Diageo is funding a statue in Central Park next year.

It’s true that Diageo — thanks to CMO Syl Saller — is doing more than anyone to push equality forward. Women make up 40 per cent of the executive committee and nearly 40 per cent of its board. Just as significantly, women make up nearly 50 per cent of Johnnie Walker’s expert blending team, who craft the whisky itself.

Diageo is also pushing agencies on diversity initiatives, but the fact remains that Jane Walker was a clever marketing ploy, and was a controversial figure immediately she arrived on the scene last year. Diageo donated $1 to women’s causes for every bottle sold (250,000 were made) but the company was accused of “brandsplaining” with its “lady whisky” celebrating International Women’s Day.

Elam writes that Jane Walker “represents a step in the right direction” during these “challenging times,” and is “a brand icon celebrating the many achievements of women and those on the shared journey toward gender equality and equal representation.”

But has Jane Walker really earned her place next to Jacinda Arden and Michele Obama in the Time 100? Diageo and agency Anomaly will be pleased to see her there, but it would be good to see a real flesh-and-blood woman representing marketing on the list.

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