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Exclusive Q&A with Tim Grice, CEO of Connective3

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Exclusive Q&A with Tim Grice, CEO of Connective3
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

We are going through one of the most difficult times in human history. The Corona virus pandemic has affected all spheres of human lives. The gaming industry is no exception.

How do the best minds of the industry analyze this rapidly evolving situation?

That’s what we want to find out with this exclusive interview with Tim Grice, the chief executive officer of Connective3, a top-notch digital marketing agency in the gaming industry based in the UK.

Here he talks about himself, his company, quick impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak in the industry and, best of all, some insightful advice on how to proceed during these tough times.

Here we go!

Q. First up, an introductory question. Tell us about yourself. Our readers love to hear top entrepreneurs talking about themselves.

A. I’ve been working in digital marketing for 13 years. I started out as a consultant in 2007, mainly working across SEO and PPC. In 2010 I joined Branded3 as Head of Search; there were no more than three people in the digital marketing team when I joined, but in 3 years we managed to grow the business to over £4m in revenue and 60 people.
Branded3 was acquired in 2013 and I took over the role of CEO in 2015, generating revenues of £7.2m and nearly 100 people in the business.
In 2019 I decided to collaborate with the founders of Branded3 and introduce a new agency brand to the mix, connective3. We have gathered together the most talented people I have worked with over a decade and have created a £1m / 20 person business in 6 months. We have huge ambitions and want to grow the business in the UK and internationally over the next 5 years.

Q. How is your business going at this time of Corona-induced turmoil?

A. Like everybody else things have slowed down. No businesses are willing to commit at such an uncertain time. However, we are working remotely very well and are even seeing some growth from our igaming and other online-only clients.

Q. What about affiliate marketing industry performance as a whole in these times? Some sectors in the affiliate world of gaming and gambling industry must be hit hard, right?

A. Any affiliates linked to travel, retail and hospitality are going to struggle immensely as no one is buying. However, we have seen an increased amount of traffic and conversions across igaming (casino/poker/bingo) as well as certain financial products and services. So very mixed, but there is no doubt some serious pain across multiple sectors.

Q. What do you think affiliate marketers in the struggling sectors should do at this stage? Any advice based on your experience?

A. It’s very hard to react as this is such a freak even; however, if possible I would recommend reviewing all content on your site, ensuring it caters to those using ‘online’ in their search queries. We have seen huge growth in ‘online + keyword’ searches across the board, and are reacting with our clients.
I think the whole crisis really spells out the need for businesses to invest in content aimed at the awareness stage of the customer journey, aspirational content to cater to customers who are browsing and wanting information before they make a purchase. Everyone is at home, no one is buying, but people are still looking in preparation for the end of this crisis. Investing in this area will put you in a stronger position when conversions dry up.

Q. Was the affiliate industry prepared to face such a crisis? What kind of course correction do the affiliate companies in the gaming and gambling sector require both in operation and strategies for tackling such a potentially long emergency period?

A. As above, I don’t think there is much that can be done to avoid the declines, only ease the pain. Investing in information-rich content, diversifying products and having international websites is probably going to be the best way to minimise the impact of a pandemic like this.

Q. What are your quick insights into the situation as we go through an ongoing crisis caused by the Corona outbreak? What are the lessons that you learned from this episode? This could be important as many warn us about similar outbreaks in the future.

A. The best piece of advice I can give is to keep your business cash rich. Have enough in the bank to see your business through six months of no revenue. It will still hurt when something like this happens, but it will allow you to navigate through it and give you the funds to invest when the world wakes up. We’re anticipating a huge wave of growth when normality returns and as a business, we want to be in position to take full advantage. Our strategy is very simple, give world class service and support to our clients and use this time to invest in our inbound marketing output.

Q. Which of the sectors in the gambling industry gained as a result of the recent crisis? It would be great if you can provide figures and stats to support your answers.

A. I can’t go into specific details about clients or numbers; however, on a whole we’re seeing quite stable numbers across the businesses we work with. Across casino, poker and bingo we’re seeing on an average a 20% increase in traffic in the UK, and even though sports betting has collapsed, we’ve seen a sharp rise in e-sports. People still want to be able to gamble even though certain products are unavailable.

Q. There is of course a reported surge in customer interest on the igaming betting front. Do you think it is sustainable during the post-crisis stage as well, when the traditional sports will be back in action?

A. I think the current surge is temporary and will stabilise when things settle down and events are allowed to continue. However, this may not be for a while looking at the current situation, so this could be a truly unprecedented summer for online casino/online poker/online bingo products. My advice would be to invest hard now in content marketing and make the most of what looks to be double digit growth in this area. We work with igaming brands getting quality links and coverage which are having a huge impact on rankings. This is where I would invest to take advantage.

Q. What would be your advices and suggestions regarding content marketing strategy for the gaming and gambling industry during this outbreak and after it? Should the old practices hold up or new ones should surface?

A. I have no doubt that buying links, link networks and other manipulative techniques still work to deliver rankings. However, we don’t advocate or practice this; our content marketing and digital PR team are one of the best in the industry and are actively working with multiple igaming businesses delivering hundreds of top tier links every month.

I would invest in informational content on your website, answering all the questions your customers could possibly have about your products and services. However, the main part of my strategy would go into digital PR and delivering high quality trusted links that deliver trust and authority in the long term, as opposed to quick fix strategies that last 3- 6 months. Decent link building can be done at scale now and deliver quantity as well as quality.

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Interviews

Making a lasting mark in a new territory

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Making a lasting mark in a new territory
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

We talk to Michael Bauer, CFO/CGO at Greentube, to discover the key elements to a successful entry into a new market.

What has to be taken into consideration before entering a new market?

Michael Bauer: The first aspect to consider is whether or not our games already have traction in a particular region, this can be in either social casino, or the land-based environment. If we see that this is indeed the case, then the decision-making process is a much easier one as clearly, this is a positive sign as to our potential within that jurisdiction.

Secondly, we have to take into consideration the market itself. How big is it, what is the overall population, how does that break down into demographic groups and what is the average income? All of these questions are pertinent. We also have to look at how the market is shaped by regulation, for example is it reasonable from a taxation perspective and in terms of products and content, or are there any major restrictions in place? All of these factors are in play when we are deciding whether or not a market is attractive to us.

By way of examples, looking at the Czech Republic and German markets, they have heavy restrictions in place on the product. Germany has a €1 limit on stakes and five seconds between spins, while in the Czech Republic, you also have maximum win limits. This can make products less attractive for players and from a supplier perspective an amended product, which is less scalable and attractive.

How important is it to utilise local expertise within a market?

It is usually very important, because markets are all different to one another in certain respects and this means a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be successfully rolled out across multiple jurisdictions. This is true for both suppliers and operators, and arguably even more crucial for the latter. Operators must have a detailed knowledge of local marketing networks, compliance aspects of regulation and local player tastes and preferences. Local expertise is an integral part of the growth journey towards being an important player in a market, there is the potential for an operator to buy their way to success through marketing, but it is a costly approach.

Are the current conditions in Germany an illustration of potential difficulties of entering a new territory?

Germany is the best current example of potential difficulties when entering a new market due to regulation. It is the first regulated market I have seen that has created an environment that is particularly unattractive for players, causing channelisation rates which are only around 20%. In addition, the regulators have struggled to issue licences. As things stand at present, what the regulation is creating does not lead to the desired outcome – the channelisation of the player base into a safe, regulated environment.

Is there an expectation for both operators and suppliers to enter every regulated region?

To a certain extent, yes. Our bigger, global customers are asking us to join them when entering new markets. We experienced this in both Argentina and Ontario, as well as other smaller regions. The issue here is that a market may not necessarily be attractive enough for us as we have too many other opportunities to tackle at the same time. When we are dealing with a smaller jurisdiction, the cost of entry and resources may be better funnelled towards the bigger openings.

Certain operators may seek to launch games on as global a basis, but this is a trend that is becoming less prevalent, which is down to different regulations and operators utilising various platforms in certain regions.

How long does it take to know whether you have been successful in a market? How is that success measured?

When a new region opens up and the regulations in place are crafted carefully, such as in the Netherlands for example, operators who gain a licence are able to ramp up quickly. We have also seen in Switzerland that markets can become very interesting, very quickly. Our measure of success is market share, where we receive feedback from operators on the success of our games. The other aspect is the GGR we are generating in a region and the number of players we are reaching. It may be that a certain jurisdiction has a weak currency, or low local purchasing power, but where there are many people playing our games. Colombia is an example of this, where the currency is not as strong as the European markets we operate in for example but we have a large player base, and can also be regarded as a success. Germany is a less than ideal example, because players are leaving the regulated market, and we cannot supply the black market.

Do you have any particular examples of successful or non-successful market entries?

The starting point of a successful entry for us is usually predicated on being first to market. We achieved that in Switzerland and the Netherlands, where on day one of regulation our games were available to play. In itself, this is a success because it’s normally very tricky to be that fast. Secondly, after a certain time you look at how big your market share is. Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland and also Norway are good examples here, as we quickly gained market share through the latter with state-owned Monopoly holder Norsk Tipping. You also have high hopes of certain jurisdictions that don’t come to fruition, which despite best intentions and plenty of hard work can be out of our hands due to regulations requiring amendments of games and stakes.

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Interviews

Exclusive Interview: Vivo Gaming’s New CCO Neil Howells

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Exclusive Interview: Vivo Gaming’s New CCO Neil Howells
Reading Time: < 1 minute

 

Neil Howells, the new CCO of the live dealer platform provider Vivo Gaming, speaks about what he hopes to achieve in the role and the latest innovations the company has to offer in the live space.

 

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Gaming

European Gaming meets Gökçe Nur Oguz, CEO and Co-Founder of Playable Factory

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European Gaming meets Gökçe Nur Oguz, CEO and Co-Founder of Playable Factory
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Q: Tell us about how & why you came to found Playable Factory?

Over four years ago – when we founded the company – gaming was booming and it still is today. All our friends were working in the sector and we wanted to, too. We were new to it all. Monetization, LTV, CPI… sounded like another language to us but gradually we learnt from our friends and tapped into the scene. As we grew our understanding, we realised playable ads played an important role. If done well, they can add to the experience of gaming. But good ones were frustratingly hard to find. So, along with my co-founders, Berat and Omer, we started making them ourselves and the rest is history.

Q: What were you doing before that/what led to it?

After university, I completed a PhD in Fluid Dynamics, a subdiscipline within physics and engineering. There were a few gamification projects, like building games for people to play that would simultaneously have a background programme running to solve an operational problem. This part had me captivated. Outside of academia, I was always gaming and would gamify everything I did. Not just computer games, but card games, board games etc… So it felt natural to me to do something I enjoyed.

Q: Describe Playable Factory & Gearbox in a nutshell?

Playable Factory is a company that focuses on the creative needs of digital advertisers. The focus is mostly on playable ads and recently on video ads for gaming clients specifically. Our secret (or not so secret) weapon is Gearbox, an online editing and iterating platform for creatives. This is split into two: Gearbox Playable, create your own tailor made playable ads (create, iterate, download and repeat) and Gearbox Video, a tool that allows users to record gameplays easily and create/edit/tweak to their heart’s desire. You can generate hundreds of videos in an automated process with one click.

Q: What kind of support can a gaming developer (or brand marketer) expect from your
platform?

Gearbox is made for people who want to monetize their games. It’s a one-stop shop for advertising and promotional videos. No prior coding knowledge is needed so anyone can use it, which hasn’t really been done to this extent before – with full, fast-response, technical support. It’s like having the full agency experience on one platform. For developers, we provide them with market insights around playable ads, guiding them to the right concept in
a speedy manner. They can get creative with graphic filters, text to speech options, banners… and any feature that improves the performance of the playables or video ads.

Q: Who are your clients?

We work with top mobile game publishers: Zynga, Playtika, Dream, Voodoo, Lion Studios, Gram Games and lots more. Apps publishers like Funimate, Trendyol and Gopuff. And brands include Hasbro, LEGO, Unilever and L’Oréal.

Q: What is unique about the Turkish mobile market/why has it become known as the Silicon
valley of the mobile gaming market?

Turkey’s become a global mobile gaming hub. It’s amazing to watch it take off. Some of the best publishers and developers in the world are based here. I think it’s got a lot to do with the ability for rapid development. You’ll find teams of 4-5 young people making a steady stream of mobile games that they send out into the market. Thanks to home-grown success stories, the eyes of investors have turned towards us. But it’s also down to the culture here. Gaming is hugely popular in Turkey and you can feel the passion and drive among people in the
scene here. Local and global economic forces make international expansion lucrative and it feeds back into making the industry making it even bigger and better – and long may it continue.

Q: Have you always been passionate about gaming? When did you first get into it?

I’ve always liked games: console, board games, mobile games… For me, it’s cracking the puzzle that gets me hooked on a game. In my childhood, my younger sister and I were always inventing our own games. Now, business-wise, my co-founder Berat and I, enjoy gaming together and playing board games in our downtime. We actually got the licence for the hugely popular party game Codenames from Czech Games. Since then, we’ve published two more board games together. This was before we entered mobile gaming.

Q: What’s your favourite mobile game?

It has to be 2048. I like puzzles and numbers 🙂

Q: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career to date? And greatest
success?

Without a doubt: building a company from scratch on a technology that we learned all by ourselves, with no training. I didn’t know how to build playable ads, I didn’t know anything about HTML5 gaming and coding so finding a good developer and establishing a business was the biggest challenge.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to start-ups in the gaming industry?

I never truly understood the importance of a team before I started working in gaming. PhDs involve mostly working solo and it misses the team spirit. The pressure is high because the success of your work is always dependent on you, and you alone. The gaming industry is totally different. Success reflects on the team who built the game. I wish I’d known that before joining the industry. So, my advice would be to evaluate your team, and believe in them because that’s the only way to reach success. If you don’t like the people you work with, it’s often much harder for you to fulfil your full potential. When your motivations align with your team’s, you can combine forces and focus to get the success you deserve.

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