LONDON: Smirnoff, the vodka brand owned by Diageo, is set to spend around 20% of its marketing budget on digital media this year, and is also placing a heightened emphasis on social networks, as it seeks to connect with a younger audience.

As previously reported, Diageo, which spent some £1.3 billion ($2.1bn; €1.4bn) on advertising and marketing over 2008 as a whole, has developed a new communications model which it hopes will deliver heightened engagement with consumers.

Currently, it directs approximately one tenth of its expenditure to new media, but it will boost this figure to around a fifth for Smirnoff as it aims to target a new demographic.

Earlier this year, the company launched a campaign for the premium vodka which included online ads based around videos from promising young musicians.

It also held a competition asking members of Facebook, the social network, to suggest ideas for possible nights out, and which cocktails could be served at these events.

The company then used the best entries as a basis for gatherings which were held in London, adding video footage from these occasions to a dedicated website.

A Facebook page launched to coincide with this communications effort now has some 600,000 members, while traffic to Smirnoff's website has also recorded a substantial uptick.

Philip Gladman, global brand director for Smirnoff, said using these sorts of channels was more "labour intensive" than TV and other more traditional media.

This is because there is a need to frequently refresh digital campaigns, and is also due to the "scary" rate at which this platform is developing.

Overall, however, Gladman argued "I have been amazed how many creative people there are out there who want to share their ideas with us."

Data sourced from Daily Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff