You feel flattered when Jane Ostler calls you back, especially when
you've just read a profile in the clippings file suggesting that it's
impossible to get her on the phone. Flattered and, of course,
The truth is actually that you're expecting to be charmed, largely
because you've just spent a good part of the morning speaking to members
of her many fans in the industry.
They have a lot of time for Jane. That's not to imply that she oozes
charm and charisma, but the consensus is that she has ... well, charm is
the word. They don't just mean good manners.
What's more, she's fun. She has more than a passing acquaintance with
what used to be known as the real world - which is refreshing in the
digital business. True, she has one or two new order credentials on her
CV - an interest in both feng shui and science fiction - but she's also
the sort of gal that persuades firemen to drive her to fancy dress
parties in their engines and then carry her over the threshold on their
Which, in a way, is why we're talking to her, because she's about to
cross a new threshold. Last week, Ostler was made head of "the ntl
waiting room", also known as digital@jwt. Her predecessor, Jeremy
Davies, joined ntl as director of commercial content back in June and,
of course, was poached by ntl's chief executive, Stephen Carter,
previously J. Walter Thompson's chief executive. It's a small world -
and there's obviously a hyperlink at work here.
In the wake of Davies' departure, which coincided with some of the worst
economic news to hit the sector as a whole, there was speculation that
if digital@jwt hadn't exactly lost its way, it was certainly struggling
with the directions. There were rumours that Davies hadn't been getting
the backing he deserved from agency management and that, in any case,
bosses at the WPP parent company were unsure about the unit's role.
After all, WPP also owns MindShare, which has digital media expertise,
and Syzygy, which specialises in technical consultancy and site
Together they surely had the market covered off? Why not channel JWT
clients through one, the other or both? Where's the need for net-heads
at Berkley Square? This sort of stuff has always been refuted by Davies
but it's the sort of mud that sticks. Ostler's appointment (she starts
next Monday) will help set the record straight.
Her track record is impressive. She got in on the ground floor as a
member of Chiat Day's new-media operation in the mid-90s, leaving to
join Ogilvy's digital communications unit in 1995 and then becoming a
founding partner of MindShare's digital division when the Ogilvy
operation was folded into it. Recently, she has made a brief foray
outside the advertising business, working for an e-commerce investment
Ostler's arrival at JWT will only serve to remind everyone that the
agency's digital credentials have remained strong. She will oversee a
department of 15, including the digital creatives Steve Mulholland
(formerly of Agency.com) and Ken Muir (previously with Agency Republic
and FCBi). It will also coincide with the implementation of a whole new
structural philosophy, courtesy of JWT's chief executive, Simon
In previous manifestations, digital@jwt was often seen as a standalone
agency-within-an-agency that connected with more mainstream colleagues
only when it acted as a digital guru resource - a team that could be
wheeled out at presentations or could provide a digital voice at
Under the new approach, it will mutate from "knowledge hub" to
This is a trick Bolton learned during his days at FCB in San
He explains: "We had a fantastic digital offering built up working for
clients like Levi's. But when we realised that 90 per cent of the
clients needed web work, we decided to integrate it across the whole
agency. What I'm about is building digital into the normal course of our
From this philosophy follows one of Ostler's immediate targets: to grow
the agency's digital business organically from existing clients.
It will seek to be more hands-on, getting more involved, where
appropriate, in implementing and producing digital projects.
Does it all add up? Some observers reserve judgment. As one puts it:
"Few digital people understand how a media agency works, never mind a
big, grown-up advertising agency. Jane offers this compelling
combination and I'm sure it will be effective. But it is a big
challenge. Everyone talks about integration but few achieve it. And
digital@jwt has had poor profile in the wider industry. It has been a
back-office resource. Eventually, Jane has to move beyond that and build
a standalone business, capable of attracting its own clients. But
there's no doubt she understands how convergent digital media relates to
clients and their brands. That is a huge asset. And she is a very
ambitious and determined character."
Davies has no doubt she'll succeed: "She has all the qualities needed to
take this on. She knows how brands can use the new-media environment.
She'll lead a strong team with all the right disciplines in place."
And what personal qualities does she bring to her new role? Does digital
still need evangelists within big agencies? Is it about being forceful
and knocking heads together, or is it about charm and persuasive
"I'm not sure it's about being an evangelist. It's certainly not as
necessary as it was five years ago. Diplomacy is important to any job
anywhere but, most importantly, I see my role as getting on with it and
producing good work. That's how we'll be judged," Ostler concludes.