Denise Shrivell

Digital People - Jon Ostler

Welcome to Digital People where we profile Jon Ostler, Group GM of BeyondD - renamed from QLtd through its recent acquisition by Beyond International. Jon offers comprehensive views on the changes in our market, the continued potential surrounding ecommerce & virtual goods - & reminds us not to forget the stuff that works'. He also highlights the continued power of Google & Facebook. Great read..

jon ostlerName:  Jon Ostler                                              

Works:  BeyondD – The Digital Marketing Group

Job Title: Group General Manager

1.  Please highlight your industry experience and how, where and when you came to digital media?

I started my digital career in Military Intelligence, no really, it is relevant but if I told you I would have to kill you! Big budgets, all the latest toys - it was 1997 and trust me you did not get 1TB of storage for $100.

After building a couple of websites ‘on the side’ I travelled and ended up in New Zealand where I accidently started a web design company after helping a few businesses out with their websites. My favourite client of the time was based in El Paso, Texas selling $2,000 cowboy boots online. Believe me - once you’ve sold handmade cowboy boots on the internet in 1999 you realise anything is possible online. I also ran an online restaurant guide and enjoyed many free dinners at Auckland’s best restaurants as a result! I sold these businesses at the end of 1999 and founded First Rate which has become one of the regions most respected Search Marketing Agencies.

In 2007 I sold First Rate to Q Ltd (ASX:QXQ) The Digital Marketing Group, and by 2011 I was CEO of the group and running a Search Agency (, Creative and Development Agency (, a Media Sales Team (, a membership website ( and a performance ad network (

Q Ltd recently sold all its digital marketing businesses, most of which were purchased by Beyond International and form the basis of their new Digital Marketing Division, BeyondD, which I now run.

2.  Can you outline your role with BeyondD - what do you actually do?

As Group General Manager of BeyondD I am responsible for devising and executing the group’s strategy. I have a very talented team of digital veterans and so my role is to provide a focal point for the development of new products and services and to oversee our go-to market strategy and tactics. With over 60 staff the development and utilisation of skilled digital marketers and sales people is also a key part of the job.

In addition to the operational side of the existing business and assets within the group I also assist Beyond International evaluate new digital business opportunities.

3. Can you offer a brief insight into BeyondD - your market position and forward plans?

BeyondD consists of three main parts; Digital Services, Digital Media Sales and Digital Assets. Services is made up of First Rate, our Search and Performance Agency and Market United, our Creative and Development Agency. Our digital media sales team 3Di represents websites and marketing databases we own (TPN & GreatSites) as well as those of 3rd party publishers.

First Rate is recognised as one to the smartest and most successful search agencies in the region and, supported by our Creative and Development capabilities, now offers its clients a truly contemporary full service digital marketing offering. We are known for our results-focused campaigns and depth of digital expertise which have been gained working for many of the region’s most successful digital entrepreneurs and established brands. We plan to capitalise on this experience and position to support a growing number of business that are becoming more and more “digital led” placing digital at the heart of their businesses.

3Di is team of digital media experts that sell media and data to all the major media agencies in Australia and New Zealand as well as numerous direct advertisers. In-house and 3rd party media assets provide advertisers with a single point of contact to book; email, video, display, mobile, social, lead generation, postal and telephone campaigns. Under the new ownership of Beyond International 3Di is part of an Entertainment and Media business turning over $100m per year. We intend to use this position to continue to build our reputation as the go-to media team offering the best advice and the most contemporary and innovative suite of digital marketing products. Augmented by our own Performance Ad Network (TPN), our consumer rewards website (Great Sites), and access to unique video content and distribution channels, we are well positioned and will be bringing new and unique digital media products to the Australian and New Zealand market. 

4. Please share your general views on the current state of the digital media market?

As always the only constant is change. Google, Facebook, DSPs and mobile devices continue to drive massive changes in the digital marketing landscape and with more and more creative and media agencies getting on the bandwagon we are seeing some big movements in how and where media is spent. Coupled with the fact that most of the new media channels are purchased and managed in a much more analytical manner we are seeing changes in the people and organisations that can really add value and those that are stuck with obsolete methodologies, business models and expertise.

5.  Is there any one person, digital business or sector you think we should be keeping an eye on?

I was asked this question a number of years ago and my answer was ‘ecommerce’. At the time I got the impression that the interviewer was looking for something more profound and visionary but I think I was spot on and I’m sticking with it especially for this region which only really got serious about ecommerce in 2011! Ecommerce has had, and will have, profound implications for many businesses in Australia and those that are not assessing and acting on the opportunities and threats ecommerce presents really need to get a move on! The other major sectors that are having a profound impact are mobile devices as the world moves closer to an “always connected” world. One saying I like is that “the impact of game changing innovations are often over overestimated in the short term and underestimated in the long term”. Ecommerce, social and mobile would clearly fall into this camp.

Another area I would love to spend more time on is virtual goods, a billion dollar sector where I’m always amazed what people will pay money for. Gaming is obviously the main sector affected but there are also non-gaming examples, for example Facebook is trialling “highlighted posts”, will people pay for that? Probably!

6.  What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities in the digital media market in the coming 12 months?

With so much media that can now be purchased via real time bidding a smart marketer can get ten times the returns compared to old world media buying approaches. Also the cost of technology and bandwidth is so low that tracking, optimisation and video all become so much more cost effective and easy to do.

The challenges are twofold; firstly don’t forget the stuff that does work in your hurry to use the latest sexiest channels. SEO, Email, Lead Generation and Analytics are amazingly effective marketing tools but often overlooked in favour of the new stuff. Secondly the new stuff is cool but finding people who can actually use it effectively is another challenge and all too often business logic goes out the window in the excitement. I have no problem with the exciting part as marketing should be fun but digital media is sold short when its real value is not realised by an ill-informed campaign.

Skill shortages is obviously a challenge and although there are many keen digital marketers, especially in the social and mobile space, many lack underlying digital marketing depth and experience which can let the campaign down. It’s also true that with the breath of digital options available and with the rate of change it’s impossible for a single individual or even a small team to keep across everything.

7. How do you see digital and other media evolving in the next 5+ years?

Data is going to be a key story over the next 5 years and is likely to cause more controversy.  In an “always connected” world we will see more integration of media and more opportunities for targeting once your “Google/Apple/Facebook” Email, Phone, TV, Radio, Music, Magazine, Car, Store and Fridge start collating data!

Google and Facebook are looking scary with their ability to grow and control a large % of media across the globe. If there are more restrictions placed on tracking and targeting consumers with cookies and alike then this will actually help companies like Google and Facebook as they can more easily obtain consumer permission for such tracking and targeting.

8. What does the digital/interactive industry need to do better right now? 

Selecting the right partner is something marketing managers looking at digital could do better. Unfortunately competing agencies rarely say “we are not the right sort of agency for you” or “we don’t really have experience in that space”. Some agencies will provide this sort of transparent advice to prospects as they know ultimately it is better to work with compatible clients but many will not in pursuit of the allusive dollar. So, ultimately it’s buyer beware - ask the right questions and do the research.

There are a lot of agency models out there some old, some new and some evolving; creative agencies, media agencies, search agencies and digital agencies all offering clients a solution. It’s important for marketers to understand what supplier or mix of suppliers is best for them. For some, putting everything with a global agency is going to be best, for others a mix will deliver the best results and for some the digital world has so fundamentally impacted the way they will do business that a ‘digitally led’ strategy with a digitally focused agency will deliver the best results and competitive advantage.

9. Where do you get your industry information from?

Either online research via Google or talking to a network of digital entrepreneurs I respect.

10.  What industry groups or networks are you a part of?

I don’t know what I would do without LinkedIn, the Facebook of the B2B world, it’s great for connecting with people in the know. IAB, ADMA and AIMIA are also great for meeting and networking with the industry.

Thanks for your continued support and interest in Digital People.  If you have any comments please feel free to get in touch - or phone:  0424 100325.  I welcome your feedback.


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Denise Shrivell MediaScope Denise Shrivell
Company: MediaScope
Position: Director
Founder of MediaScope - Australia's most up-to-date & evolving directory resource connecting agencies & marketers to more than 3,000 niche, alternative & emerging media options Read Denise's full bio

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