Connect with us
SIS

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Ian McDonnell CEO at Blexr

George Miller

Published

on

Exclusive Q&A with Ian McDonnell CEO at Blexr
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

First up, tell us about yourself. It’s always great to hear successful entrepreneurs speak about themselves.

Mine is the classic affiliate story: in my final year of college in 2004, I started getting seriously into poker after winning €450 in a home game. Having been broke my entire student life, winning that amount of money in a night piqued my interest. I started to read a lot about poker, immersing myself in books, forums, and any other poker-related content I could find.

Soon after, I graduated from university and started my first job with a telecoms company, working in their web content department. At this point, I was playing online poker almost every day. After some initial struggles, I was earning more playing poker in the evenings than I was in my day job.

I was keen to travel while I was still young. Having saved up some money, I decided to quit my job to seek adventures overseas. At this point, I had enough of a bankroll to play poker full-time and sufficient money left in the bank for a return ticket, in case poker didn’t work out. I headed off to Asia with some friends and started my professional poker-playing journey.

The next three years went brilliantly. By 2008, I had travelled across Asia and moved from low-stakes to high-stakes games.

I was also getting an amazing rakeback deal from the poker site I played on. The manager signed me up to their affiliate programme and told me to offer the same deal to my poker network. Not long after, I had 20-30 of my poker friends on the same deal and got a 5% cut of their action.

Most of my poker network were professional players, so 5% of their rake added up to a pretty significant amount. That then got me interested in the business side of poker, and it was from there that I found affiliation and immersed myself in online marketing in the same way I had previously done with poker.

I had very strong links with several members of the close-knit Irish poker community and regularly chatted with a gentleman who went by the name of “roadsweeper”. After we got talking about building a website together, we decided to try our hands at the online marketing game.

When roadsweeper (or Paudie, as he’s better known these days) and I started working together, affiliation went from a part-time hobby to a full-time job. Our first site was dedicated to our shared passion – poker – and we had immediate success, reaching four-figure earnings in our first few months. Soon after, we made our first foray into casino, and sports betting followed not long after that.

While I’m wearing the hat of CEO, Blexr is very much a partnership. Our success to date would not have been possible without Paudie’s positive energy, work ethic, and sense of humour, as well as his superhuman ability to put up with my pig-headedness. He was also the driving force behind the eventual creation of Blexr in 2015.

It has been four years since Blexr started. What were the ideas and circumstances behind founding it?

At the start of 2015, I was in China and Paudie was in Ireland. We were running 10-20 websites, and had freelancers spread across the world managing everything from design to dev to content.

Back then, we assumed every affiliate was running a similar operation to our own, and that everybody was running a “two guys in a garage” type of setup. On receiving an invite to a private affiliate event in Punta Cana, our eyes were opened when we learned that several of the super affiliates in attendance ran “real” companies with offices, staff, and the rest of the things you’d expect in a normal business.

That led to discussions on centralising operations. We went on to do some research on the various gaming hubs around the world and finally settled on Malta as the home for Blexr.

The company is going great, judging from the awards you get. What is the secret of maintaining freshness and motivation even after four years?

That’s a great question. While Blexr opened its doors four years ago, we’ve actually been working together since 2008.

Our motivations have changed a lot over the years. Initially, the main motivation was money. When you have bills to pay, you need to have a viable business that can cover your living costs. Luckily, things went well from the very beginning, so we never had financial worries.

Once you reach a certain level of financial success, money becomes much less of a motivating factor. Nowadays, there are other aspects of running a company that are far more important to us.

The first is our focus on building great products, something that is part of Blexr’s mission. Being part of a team that works on products users love is highly motivating.

Secondly, developing and growing a company culture is both fun and challenging. It can be an emotional rollercoaster at times, but ultimately it’s very rewarding.

Blexr has reputably earned a standing in the lead generation, especially in the gaming and casino verticals. Tell us about some of your innovations in the digital marketing arena.

All of Blexr’s success is a result of the hard work and dedication of the 100 or so individuals that make up our team of teams. Our growth and constant evolution and innovation is a result of their creativity, dedication, and commitment. Malta often gets a bad reputation when it comes to the quality of talent on the island; we’re fortunate to be blessed with some of the smartest and hardest-working people in the industry.

When it comes to innovation, at the moment we’re putting a lot of focus on big data. We’re working on a number of different projects that aim to provide a personalised gaming experience for our users. We’re also exploring different ways to discover what users want to then tailor our products to their needs.

Since you are into the business of bringing customers to the gaming and gambling websites, you must be in a great position to judge what customers really need. Could you specify a couple of things that customers really need or want, but not available at present in the gambling industry?

I think the big thing that customers in gaming want is trust and transparency, which is often lacking in the industry. Transparency is something we really care about at Blexr. It’s one of the core values of the company, and it’s also part of our mission statement when it comes to how we approach our products and our users.

The digital marketing space keeps on evolving. There was once Google’s near monopoly. Then Facebook arrived. Now, a host of new social media upstarts threaten to disrupt the digital marketing space every other day. How do you keep calm and generate leads amidst such fast-paced evolution?

The affiliate industry and SEO have changed a lot over the past ten years. The methods we used to rank websites a decade ago would have your website penalised for life if you tried them today.
It’s always important to look towards the future. What way is SEO going? What sites are ranking well these days and why? What other channels can be used to generate leads apart from SEO? We try to keep one eye on the future at all times, to ensure that we’re building sites and products that will stand the test of time.

You bring leads from all over the world. What are the steps that you take to ensure legal compliance, as the rules on gambling practically change from country to country – even from state to state in many countries?

We have fantastic commercial and content teams with dedicated people managing compliance across our network of sites. We are in regular contact with all our partners to ensure our sites are always up to date and aligned with current regulations.

Now you have an office in Barcelona as well, apart from the headquarters in Malta. Any plans to expand further, especially to the USA and Asia?

Right now, we’re focused on our two offices in Malta and Barcelona. As the regulatory landscape changes in the US, Asia, and other markets, we may look to strategically set up offices in those locations. However, for now, our priorities are Malta and Barcelona.

Advertisement

Interviews

Q&A with Boris Chaikin, CEO of Soft2Bet on the Swedish market

George Miller

Published

on

Q&A with Boris Chaikin, CEO of Soft2Bet on the Swedish market
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

With the arrival of Campobet in Sweden, this is Soft2Bet’s second website launched in the region. Why is it such an important market for our industry?

B.C.: Sweden was always a desirable territory for us as we knew gambling was a beloved tradition in its communities. We were happy that the Swedish government decided to adopt a law to further regulate the industry as it offered us a great chance to showcase our product to Swedish customers.

Having conducted thorough research of the market we made the decision to apply for the Spelinspektionen licence. This market is filled with strong competitors vying for the attention of demanding players, which has led to both technological advancement and cutting-edge content development.

These challenges brought a strength to our product, and with the success of YoyoCasino proving we are on the right track; we knew now was the best time for us to bring our cutting-edge sportsbook  to Sweden.   

What does Soft2Bet bring to the Swedish market and how does it differentiate from its competitors?

Boris Chaikin, CEO of Soft2Bet.

B.C.: Our main aim is always to provide users with products of the highest quality, and it’s why we carefully selected our websites with this market in mind. . YoyoCasino and Campobet are both very successful projects in their own right and are now both hugely popular with our Swedish customers, so the decision we made was certainly the correct one.

YoyoCasino has a wide variety of slots, live casino, poker, and blackjack games, and the recently launched Campobet is the perfect companion to the brand, offering sports fans the opportunity to place bets on both live and virtual sports. Customers can bet on all the Swedish sporting fixtures, along with the world’s top leagues and championships and a extensive selection of other sporting events.

However, the diversity of our offering isn’t the only thing that separates Soft2Bet from the competition. Our professional customer support service differentiates us from other brands by being available24/7, giving clients access to native speakers who are available to help and answer questionsat any time.

Alongside that, we provide security. Our clients are given the opportunity to create an account using the Pay’n’Play option via Trustly, which establishes credibility among our customers.

What do you envisage for the future of the Swedish market, and do you have plans in place to further enhance your presence across the Nordics?

B.C.: The region is becoming more and more competitive , and companies should be constantly thinking of new ways to innovate while strictly adhering to the guidelines laid out by Spelinspektionen.

Swedish customers deserve additional exciting projects and Soft2Bet has plentyof them on the horizon. However, we won’t just be limiting our growth to the Swedish market – our team is currently working hard on obtaining another licence in the Nordics, but those are plans we’re keeping close to our chest.

Continue Reading

Interviews

SoftSwiss Game Aggregator grows three times in a year

George Miller

Published

on

SoftSwiss Game Aggregator grows three times in a year
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

SoftSwiss Game Aggregator is growing at an amazing pace. Over the year, the amount of bets has tripled and the number of games increased threefold. Max Trafimovich, the CCO of SoftSwiss told about the uniqueness of SoftSwiss Game Aggregator, entry to the Maltese market, and plans for the future.

What is unique about the SoftSwiss Game Aggregator solution?

The first thing to note is ​unified technical integration that allows access to dozens of game providers after only one-time integration with the Game Aggregator. We have established warm relationships with the most popular casino game providers. It allows our clients to quickly start a business and save hundreds (or even thousands) of development hours, which would be needed for contracting, integration and API connection.

The second advantage is a ​unified support center which provides a single entry point for solving absolutely any issues related to game content. SoftSwiss team assists at each step of integration and, working together with game content partners, provides ongoing technical support after the games go live. It greatly simplifies our client’s business management.

The next point is ​royalty for the game ​. SoftSwiss has some of the best market conditions. We always strive to achieve the most favorable conditions with game providers, which allows our clients to reduce costs than if they work directly with game providers.

For the time being, we have earned the trust of such major brands in the gambling market as Bitstarz, Playamo, who use not just Game Aggregator but our core platform, also worth mentioning 1xbet, Favbet, Pokermatch…In total, we provide games for over 300 domains.

How does the SoftSwiss aggregator differ from others?

We have a strong development team and a powerful technology stack. We are constantly scaling the product to keep up with growing loads. But answering the question, I would focus on something else.
Softswiss Game Aggregator has a unique customer service model, which differs from competitors. We provide the best service on the market and these are not just words, this is our ideology, what SoftSwiss strives for. Being close to the client, ahead of his needs, acting as flexible as possible – these are the main principles the company based, which in turn allow our customers to operate their projects as efficiently as possible. Our strategic goal is to strengthen the position of the Softswiss Game Aggregator on the market, surprise with the level of service and provide customers with the opportunity to verify this in practice.

What about the selection of games SoftSwiss Aggregator provides at the moment?

Over this year the aggregator was enriched by more than 30 new providers, among the key deals are such companies as Quickspin, Relax Gaming, Push Gaming, Playtech and Novomatic AKA Greentube. Recently we added Red Tiger and Pragmatic Play’s Live Casino suite of games.

To date, our portfolio consists of over 60 game vendors including BGaming – SoftSwiss’s game dev studio, which is available through the Game Aggregator. In total it’s more than 10,000 games to choose from. But it’s not about the size – it’s about the quality and stability of our software.

How did the volumes of bets change since last summer?

I was anxious for this question to come! The monthly volume of bets has TRIPlED since June 2019. We are proud that this May we exceeded the monthly bet volume of 2 billion euros. It is just a warm-up!

What are the plans for the future development of the Aggregator?

One of the major upcoming events is that in August, the Aggregator will enter the Maltese market. It is a momentous milestone that will contribute to a further increase in the customer audience. Among the main priorities to integrate more niche content for local markets. Then we are going to look for the next big stars: several interesting game studios that are planning to add will have a significant effect in the next 2 years.

The main goal we are confidently heading is to increase the number of clients at least 2 times. At the same time, we have no goal to increase the number of connected game providers. New gaming studios are constantly contacting us. Our principle is better fewer providers, but quality service that takes online casino management experience to the new level.

Continue Reading

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Si Crowhurst, VP Vungle Creative Labs

George Miller

Published

on

Exclusive Q&A with Si Crowhurst, VP Vungle Creative Labs
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

We usually start with a brief introduction. Could you tell us about yourself and your current role in your organization?

S.C.: At Vungle, we strive to transform how people discover and experience mobile apps. Our goal is to be the trusted guide for growth and engagement, helping our clients optimise ad performance by creating and rapidly adapting ads that maintain user experience. As the VP of Vungle Creative Labs, I lead the charge on creating data-optimised content to drive engagement and increase returns for publishers and advertisers, ranging from indie studios to powerhouse brands.

Vungle Creative Labs’ secret to success is the multidisciplinary DNA of the team that combines creatives, technologists and data analysts. We’re constantly advancing our creativity and automation platform for custom creative, using data and machine learning to ensure our clients are on the leading edge of mobile advertising.

 

The main focus of this interview is Vungle’s joint initiative with the WHO/UN Call Out to Creatives to Help initiative – for creating ads and in-app advertising for public health awareness. How did this project come up? Who made the first moves?

S.C.: At the height of the pandemic, the United Nations/World Health Organization launched its first ever “call out to creatives to help” and we simply felt that it was an opportunity to create some really impactful work and really live up to our values. In short, we wanted to do our bit. 

The focus of the brief was for designers to create visual content explaining what steps people can take to slow the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle harmful misinformation campaigns. In a modern-day ‘Rosie the Riveter’ effort, we pooled our design talent, data analytics and gaming expertise and set to work creating a series of playable ads (i.e. interactive ads). Drilling into the principles of gamification, we created ads to drive user engagement around the key WHO messages of maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene.

 

Tell us a bit more about the whole thing. Basically, you send health awareness messages just like in-app advertisements. Tell us more about the processes involved?

S.C.: The campaign strategy we developed and sent into the WHO/UN focused on delivering playable or interactive ads that carried a public health message instead of a consumer brand performance ad. The design process was also similar. We know from our wider work that gamification works in in-app advertising because it triggers powerful human emotions – think: the need for achievement, competition and status; the desire for reward etc. – so we applied the same thinking to this context. In one design, people interacting with the ads had to interact with the screen, swiping back and forth for the duration of time it takes to wash your hands before they could continue in their given app. 

 

What is exactly Vungle’s role in it? Do you use your data, testing and research insights to create, place and run the health awareness in-app ads, just like you do in the case of usual commercial ads?

S.C.: After reviewing the UN/WHO’s main goals and objectives, we selected the playable ad format as the most effective creative medium. Playable ads are dynamic, non-verbal ads that can transcend language and cultural barriers that could otherwise mean that certain messages don’t carry or fall flat. Visual language is a powerful way to drive home messages and encourage positive behaviour. We knew as the weeks of lockdown passed, there had been a significant uplift in mobile app downloads, so this format was really useful given the context. 

The team developed several creative options, choosing to capture the key messages of physical distancing and personal hygiene; some of the most salient health messages that many governments have advocated as fundamentally necessary to the emergency response. We then applied creative testing to learn, scale and adapt the ads at rapid speed to enhance user experience while still achieving engagement goals.

 

How are the users reacting to these health messages through in-app ads. Are their responses in similar lines as towards the commercial ads?

S.C.: We’re delighted to say that the ads have attracted over 36,771,804 million viewers so far, reaching both Apple and Android users in over a dozen countries. Excitingly, the work now also sits in a WHO library of artwork that will be used to educate individuals and communities all across the world as we pass through this global crisis and, hopefully, learn from it for next time. You see the library here: UN COVID-19 Creative Content Hub. In terms of the comparison to commercial ads, the click through rate has been impressive – 55 percent higher than the average click rate for advertising campaigns in apps –, but given the variables involved in the ad content and aims, you can’t really compare apples with oranges! 

 

You recently wrote about monetization strategies for in-app adds during COVID-19 outbreak. How are things going in the in-app monetization front over the last two months? Are the ad engagement and the revenues from in-app monetization going up or down? Would love to hear some stats and observations on this topic.

S.C.: As with every major crisis, the public turns to news and online platforms for information. With school closures and mandatory work-from-home policies, many of us in the industry expected some uptick in the number of mobile games being downloaded, and the initial upsurge post-lockdown was pretty massive. While entertainment advertisers are seeking to leverage this increase in demand and garner extra conversions as a result, it still feels too early to speculate on how things are going in monetisation and how resilient companies will be as we navigate these unchartered waters.

That said, as time goes on, we’re likely to see more and more people turning to apps that run on freemium models. This is what happened in China during the lockdown there. With users flocking to apps, it’s a good time for mobile marketers to strategically optimise their in-app spend, but we recommend engaging with partners who can really help them navigate this uncertain terrain. 

 

We focus on the gaming and gambling sector. The real world of sports has come to a standstill, with all the major sporting events getting cancelled. How did that affect the mobile advertising sector? Is there being a case of another door opening when one door is shut?

S.C.: While in-app advertising for sporting and gambling apps has taken a hit, users have transferred their attention to other apps that help tackle boredom, find some fun or, in many cases, manage their anxieties – for example, anecdotally we know that people have been trying to “upskill” with language apps like Memrise or Duolingo. So, the users are still there, but their allegiance to which apps has simply changed. When sporting events start up again (and as we’ve seen with Premier League football recently restarting), we can expect the sector to see a change in their fortunes. 

 

We shall conclude with a look into the future. What are the major changes, if any, that we could see in mobile advertising? Our readers appreciate your insights on this.

S.C.: AI continues to shape the future of mobile advertising, with the continued proliferation of machine learning algorithmic and automated bidding products from the likes of Facebook and Google having a strong influence. These technologies are taking control away from advertisers with respect to which target levers to pull in their campaigns and instead decisions are being made based on data. This data includes aggregated intelligence from different industries and markets, as well as billions of consumer data points like key words and searches, device types, and geographic locations – all of which will inform what works best in terms of ad spend and budget allocation.

“Seed” audience data – consisting of users who have already shown their interest by taking actions like clicking an ad or purchasing a product – and creative remain the two most impactful levers for a marketer to influence performance and scale. This has led to considerable investment in creative studios and technology that support the ability to produce massive amounts of creative variants, which can be piped into campaigns for testing. Creative that is adaptive and responsive to user preferences will continue to grow. 

Finally. short-form, video-sharing apps are a huge trend, and have enormous potential to reshape mobile advertising. Because this type of content feels more native – its users self-describe as creators rather than “influencers,” developing ways to draft behind it is exciting new territory we need to explore. 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
NSoft

Global Gaming Industry Newsletter – Weekly Digest (sent every Wednesday)

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from European Gaming Media and Events:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here. Read more about European Gaming Media and Event's Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Subscribe to our News via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to our news and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Trending

Notice for AdBlock users

We are constantly showing banners about important news regarding events and product launches. Please turn AdBlock off in order to see these areas.