Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why the UK and Australian digital media and marketing industries are closer than you think

By Darren Jacobs, EMEA Sales Director, Zitcha. Darren has 18+ years experience working in sales spanning UK, Singapore and Australia having worked for Dennis Publishing, Yahoo, Publicis, iClick, Nugit and Shuttlerock.

Moving to Sydney as a fresh-faced 27-year-old in 2008 was the stuff dreams were made of and I was lucky enough to transfer with my then employer, Yahoo! For context, this was a time when MySpace was considered the dominant social networking site, the iPhone had only just launched, YouTube had only just started to show ads and Netflix was still a DVD rental by mail service.

There are probably some people reading this thinking this is some kind of elaborate fiction piece. I can assure you, this was how it all began….

At the time of the move, there was an urban myth saying how far behind Australia was, so I went with this preconception in mind that I was basically getting in my Delorean and going back in time by 5 years (probably another reference where some of the readers think I’ve lost the plot).

Although the landscape was very different from how we see it today, I quickly realised that the urban myth about Australia being 5 years behind was wildly inaccurate and fictitious.

Over the next 5 years, I left Yahoo! and spent my final 3 years on the agency side, at Zenith and Ikon. This is where I understood this not to be the case as my view of digital switched from ‘Yahoo-centric’ to a more holistic view of digital. So, are some of the key things where I noticed some big differences.

  1. It’s not the size of the wave

There is a big difference between market development and market size. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the population is roughly a 1/3rd of the size, which therefore means the budgets are going to be significantly less. However, this doesn’t mean you can be any less forward thinking. Back then our team on a well-known telco did some complex studies, looking at the impact on search from TV, offline, and online activity.

When I moved back to the UK this more than stood the test of time when referenced in conversations. 

On a similar note, whilst the size of the population is a lot smaller, it is largely quite creative and very similar in mindset to the UK. The clever global marketers who realised this would often use Australia as a testing ground for Beta products.

Google was renowned for this, and my clients often got to test certain products before global rollouts. Even at Yahoo, we were the only market globally to run ‘image extension ads’ which were essentially takeovers on position 1-3 with images and multiple linking and sold on a tenancy basis. This was a first of it’s kind of utilising images on the SERP and guaranteeing yield. 

  1. The human element

Work to live, or live to work?

Australia was, and probably still is, streaks ahead of the UK (and most markets) with the work-life balance. It’s not all beach and beers on a Friday (sadly) but a real focus on working smart, and hard and giving employees space to live.

The impact this has on productivity was super positive and all three organisations I worked at had initiatives to help with this. Did the work being produced suffer? No. Were the teams happier? Yes. It’s something I’ve learned from and tried to embed into teams in the UK and Singapore that I’ve been part of. 

At the time of moving, workplace culture and happiness was never really a topic that was discussed but since then, and rightly so, this has evolved so much in the past 10 years for many reasons. At the time, I had no idea this was going to be such a key part of everyday life, but my experience has 100% shaped my thinking more positively. 

From a seller point of view, during my time at Yahoo (and indeed roles I had in Singapore after Australia) brands and agencies were a lot more welcoming to understand more about new offerings to market, product updates, and what sellers had to offer in general. Of course, sometimes it took a couple of emails or a quick call but more often than not, meetings were never difficult to get, or feedback from that RFP (win or lose)  was never not forthcoming. 

  1. Geography

This is where I did notice (particularly in later roles) a drawback to Aussie living. It’s pretty obvious but you are a long way from home, and apart from New Zealand, any civilisation. One brilliant thing about the UK is the fact it is a real hub for EMEA (and sometimes global) which allows for different types of innovation, multi-market campaigns, and cross-market learnings. 

Overall, Australia isn’t as alien as one might think and it certainly felt it was very much home from home. Given the large ‘pommie’ population (coincidently focused around 2 main beaches) there are quite a few people who would also agree. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen some innovative tech companies emerge from that part of the world grow on the global stage such as Atlassian, Xero, Canva, Zitcha, Shuttlerock, and AfterPay (and many more)

From my personal experience, having been lucky enough to work in the UK, Australia, and Singapore the main thing is taking the pros and cons from all experiences appreciating the cultural nuances (no matter how large or small), and learning from this.

Except the taxi drivers – gimme a black cab any day of the week and Marmite over Vegemite….