Category - Travelling Around The World

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Melting in Dubai at Adsimilis Meetup 2014
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My 2 Weeks in Bangkok and Hua Hin
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STM & F5 Amsterdam Meetup on May 3rd

Melting in Dubai at Adsimilis Meetup 2014

September was a busy month.

I’ve just got back from the Adsimilis Dubai Meetup, which was bookended by two weeks in monsoon-lashed Krabi and Phuket.

A bunch of social commitments (or as I only half-jokingly refer to them: “going outside”) meant that by the time I reached Dubai, my campaigns weren’t so much suffering from banner blindness, but paralysed from the neck down by weeks of neglect.

The churn in this industry is absolutely insane.

Alas, I’m back in the trenches. Energised and motivated. Ready to tap in to brand new traffic sources.

I have to admit, meeting other affiliates is a great cure for a lost mojo.

It works in two ways.

First, we’re an industrious bunch. It is both enlightening and inspiring (and sometimes terrifying) to hear what other affiliates are working on.

Second, it’s nice to not be the biggest scumbag in the room.

Seriously.

If your guilty conscious ever needs a pick-me-up, find the nearest circle of affiliates, plaster them with alcohol and then ask: “So, what’s the shadiest shit you’ve ever run?”

I met one affiliate in Barcelona who had been engaged in marketing practices that can only be described as the ‘wrong side of borderline’. Those practices lead to his house being raided in the early hours by a SWAT team.

A fucking SWAT team!

More memorable than the confession itself was the sheer acceptance among the rest of us in the circle that, oh well, shit happens.

Followed by the inevitable, “So… are you still running the offer?”

(I’m glad to say he wasn’t.)

Besides the tales of insanity, it’s reassuring to get an idea of where the industry is heading.

Large scale meetups provide a nice general consensus of what works today, what is likely to work tomorrow, and more ‘what stopped working yesterday’ than you could ever hope to digest. A bit like a trip to the Warrior Forum.

The Adsimilis Dubai meetup was a great mix of affiliates: some just starting their journeys, others who have creamed several million in cold profit already.

There’s one concept that I think nearly everybody walked away agreeing:

Affiliate Marketing… is Dirrrrrty

Five years ago, ask an affiliate what he did for a living and he’d give you a blank stare.

“Well, um, I don’t actually like know, but it’s called affiliate marketing and it’s pretty sweet. Gotta run though bro, hookers waiting.”

Next year, ask the same question, and you’re likely to receive this canny slice of positioning:

“I’m a director at a performance marketing agency.”

There is a clear shift.

Nearly every affiliate I spoke to in Dubai was wrestling with the same dilemma:

How can we take this ugly twisted cousin of advertising — affiliate marketing — and rebrand it in to something that gives us greater opportunities moving forward?

Those megalomania days where affiliates took pride in loathing the status quo — the corporate desk monkeys — are no more. We’d rather pass through the wider advertising community undetected as mere ‘parts’ of respectable, 9-5 agencies. You know, guys who just might be up to something a little more honourable than lead scalping.

This can only be a good thing.

After all, if you want to build relationships with advertisers, you have to play the advertiser’s game.

And that means creating a perception that you are an agency built to last. Not just a lone wolf chancing his luck in his underpants.

Some takeaways from Dubai:

1. If you’re going to waste time on any social network, make it LinkedIn; network mercilessly.

Set up a company profile and fill it with recommendations from anybody who has ever worked for you.

Want to distort outside perspectives? Set up fake employee profiles.

There’s no doubt that scale matters at the negotiation table. The appearance of a full agency will get your foot in the door of the Advertiser’s World.

2. Refer to yourself as a “Director of Marketing” instead of CEO, President, etc.

Better to be a relevant department head than Top Dog with his fingers in too many pies.

3. Go one step better:

Actually build an agency.

Thoughts on Dubai

This was my first time in Dubai.

I’m still not sure what to make of the place.

As a committed Englishman, the concept of not being able to drink outside of hotels and restaurants — or indeed to be seen drunk in public — is, dare I say it, a trifle fucking troubling.

I struggle to see how a city can ‘meet in the middle’ with Western tourism ideals and still enforce the many punishable social offences that it does.

The reality is that if you are suitably rich, you can jump on a yacht, float a few meters off the coastline and commit just about any debauchery under the sun, all while remaining completely untouched by the law.

That, I find a little too pick and choosey for my liking.

But that’s not to take away from the immense standards of service, and general all-round friendliness.

Dubai is painfully hot in September, as I discovered on my first day:

Dubai Lessons

Thankfully Adsimilis laid on a coach to get us around the city.

I had an early flight so I didn’t descend on any Dubai nightclubs, but the restaurants and happy hours were great fun.

And more importantly, the people first class.

NUI: Networking Under The Influence

Read too many forums and you could be forgiven for tarring the affiliate community as a cold bunch.

Yet in person, there’s a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect that rarely translates online.

I guess networking is just a million times easier face-to-face.

That’s not to say you can’t make a prat out of yourself.

On the first night, whilst sipping Carlsberg in the merciless desert heat, the discussion turned to Voluum and ZeroPark.

I turned to a guy I hadn’t spoken to before and asked, “So, Voluum… you use it at all?”

(Note to single affiliates: A cracking chat-up line. Yours free of charge to abuse over the weekend.)

Said chap smiled in confusion, and pulled out his business card:

“Bartlomiej Dawidow
CTO and Founder of Voluum.”

Cue howls of laughter as I stood there, copping the flak, thinking “Well there goes my bloody discount.”

I also met Robert Gryn, CEO of CodeWise who took great enjoyment in asking repeatedly why I was crying over dinner. I wasn’t. I was sweating.

Fucking Dubai.

For the first three years of my affiliate career, I never took meetups seriously. And that was a big mistake.

While the speeches at this event were a good rallying call to action; inspirational even; it’s the one-on-one conversation with fellow pros that pays for your plane ticket.

When the booze kicks in, so does sincerity in the shit that falls out of our mouths.

The truth is that you can learn more from a drunk affiliate than you’ll ever learn from a lifetime of readings blogs like this*.

*Unless the writer is drunk, careless or stupid.

Thanks Adsimilis

adsimilis-meetup-dubai
(Photo jacked from Ian Fernando’s blog where you can read his write-up of the trip. There’s also a post by KJ Rocker)

It’s always a pleasure to catch up with the Adsimilis crew.

Cheers for keeping us all fed, watered and safely insulated from the wrath of Shariah Law.

Special thanks to Sean for smuggling a mini-bottle of Champers in to my ‘party bag’, which I promptly and rather indiscreetly popped against the hotel fucking ceiling, no less. And to Eleah for tranquillising me with Scotch before my panel.

London Adtech is just around the corner.

If you haven’t been before, I suggest you keep it that way.

Unless, of course, you enjoy the sterile wasteland of middle management blabber and beaming rent-a-pitches; most of whom think ‘performance marketing’ stands for who can shove the most coke in their face whilst still talking coherently about whatever marketing buzzword has captured the press pen and/or Twitter.

What’s that you say?

It’s all about ‘earned media’ now, is it?

Earn my balls, you gobshite.

Now that’s not to knock AdTech itself.

I’ve heard great things about the NYC show. But if you want to get value for your time in London, skip the show, avoid the snootiness, and head straight for dinner.

If anybody is in town and wants to meet up for a pint before or after, hit me up.

Otherwise, see you in Vegas at Affiliate Summit West!

My 2 Weeks in Bangkok and Hua Hin

Want to feel energised, more productive and ready to take on the world?

Take a holiday.

My advice: Go to Thailand.

I am freshly returned from a 2 week hiatus spent lolloping on beaches, soaking in the blistering heat of a subtropical summer at the peak of its powers.

Some random observations:

Jesus Christ, it’s hot

Thailand in April is hot with a capital HOT.

I should have remembered this from living there.

Given zero chance to acclimatise by London’s damp fart of a spring, I can tell you that 38 degree heat is a recipe for an extremely sweaty afternoon.

On the hottest day I had to stop my routine of reading by the pool because I couldn’t control the amount of sweat that was dripping in to my eyes.

Hot.

I’m pretty sure you’d find more salt on my sun lounger than in the entire Gulf of Thailand by the time I’d dragged my scorched carcass back to the pool.

Hot, hot, hot.

I miss it already.

Westerners and their Thai brides

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a guy moving to Thailand, retiring, meeting the cliche ‘Thai bride’, and starting a new chapter in his life.

I can see how and why it happens.

What I find distasteful is that for so many Westerners, this type of romance isn’t built on reality.

It’s a power trip.

Many times I would catch sight of a Brit treating his Thai wife or girlfriend as if she were sub-species. Just because you can exert that control and get away with it, doesn’t mean you should.

Thankfully there’s a younger generation of expats in Thailand who aren’t committed to fantasies of domestic totalitarianism straight from the 1930s.

But for the crustaceans who are… good luck if you ever run out of money.

Mental breaks from work

It’s amazing how the mind slows down when you disconnect physically from your work space.

I don’t mean to take a walk, or go to the pub. But to eject yourself completely from anywhere that resembles work or its associated habits.

By spending entire days away from the computer, you get a fresh perspective.

I often find that it takes this distance to allow myself to drop projects that are going nowhere, or to align my focus on those which actually mean something to me.

Reading fiction instead of non-fiction helps.

Escapism is the best distraction.

Japanese tourists and cameras

I swear to God, what is up with Japanese tourists and their infatuation with taking pictures?

In Hua Hin, one couple would sit in silence for breakfast, occasionally taking bites but mostly interested in snapping each other.

Constantly.

From every angle.

In eerie still silence.

Who needs to talk, or take in the stunning views, when you can just sit there vacantly taking pictures to live through when the experience has already gone?

I really don’t get it.

One of the group even stopped to watch me make a cup of coffee on my balcony, presumably because I was only wearing my boxers.

Normally if I caught this, I’d challenge them, “Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer.”

Pretty fucking irrelevant if they already are.

Shameless!

Songkran public target number one

You’ve got to admire how the Thais celebrate their New Year (Songkran).

Bangkok turns in to a gigantic water fight with water guns, buckets and even fire hoses.

In possibly my favourite moment of the entire holiday, my girlfriend and I were wandering towards Emporium when a nervous, smiling Thai officer approached us with a tin of what looked like Quality Street chocolates.

We were already completely soaked through, so we knew the drill.

I ducked my head and winced.

“Sorry, sorry!” he pleaded, before walking straight past, tottering up to my girlfriend, and slowly pouring a full tin of water straight down her top.

It was one of the politest pre-meditated street assaults I’ve ever seen.

It got me thinking though.

What if you were visiting Thailand for the first time and you didn’t know what Songkran was?

How do you react when a Thai wanders in your direction, blasts you with a SuperSoaker, and carries on walking without taking his eyes off his phone?

I’d probably get back on the plane.

Old people and flying

If you are over 75, with a dodgy bladder, and extremely bad hearing… I’m sorry, but I don’t want to sit behind you on a 14 hour flight.

Old lady: “We’ve been flying for 9 hours.”

Her husband, shouting profusely, clearly deaf as a door mat: “I know. I’ve pissed myself twice.”

There’s something comical about hearing an old couple bicker, oblivious to their incredible decibels, marbles long gone and replaced by wholly British arguments, like:

Why is my blanket wet? I want a dry one. No, not that one. I want a dry one, dunn’ae.”
“No YOU ask the lady. I don’t bloody know why it’s wet do I? I probably pissed myself over India.

But after 14 hours sat there, awoken at one point by a strange outburst of applause and hollers — Old Man’s reaction to the end of Phantom of the Opera — I did want to kill myself.

I flew Malaysia Airlines, by the way.

You could sense the palpable hearts in mouths every time the plane changed course on the tracker, especially in turbulence.

Can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for cabin crew in the days immediately following MH370.

‘Cuties’ on the BTS

Ever wondered what Nicky Cakes is up to these days?

Well, here he is, captioned as Justin Timberlake (Timbercakes?), appearing on a Facebook page titled ‘BTS CUTE GUYS’.

Timbercakes

Un-be-lievable.

I won’t lie. I did check the page to see if I’d made an appearance.

Not a god damn whisper.

So what happens when you go viral as a ‘BTS cute guy’?

This, apparently:

Timbercakes FB

I expect Cakes will be extending his visa.

Seduced by Thailand again

It’s difficult to leave Thailand.

Every time I visit, I question what ever convinced me to move back to London.

In reality, there were a number of factors. But it doesn’t stop the mind from wandering.

You think of the weather, the people, the food (God, the food), the beaches, the pace of life.

It doesn’t get any better.

Does it?

If you haven’t visited Thailand, I highly recommend it.

Pics from the trip

A collection of pics from Bangkok, Hua Hin and Samphram, April 2014:


STM & F5 Amsterdam Meetup on May 3rd

Another year, another affiliate meetup in Amsterdam.

On May 3rd, StackThatMoney and F5 Media are hosting what promises to be an epic night of networking, schmetworking, boozing and (probably) red light district cruising.

This is going to be one of the biggest affiliate events of 2013, and you don’t want to miss out. The meetup also coincides with Queen’s Day on April 30th.

What is it about Amsterdam that attracts the world’s top CPA marketers?

We probably shouldn’t answer that question. It’s obviously the stroopwaffles.

STM Amsterdam Meetup

Queen’s Day is a national holiday in the Netherlands, and this year will be even more chaotic than usual. Prince Willem-Alexander will be succeeding his mother to become the first King of the Netherlands since 1890, thus turning Queen’s Day in to King’s Day.

The Dam is sure to be bouncing, and in more ways than usual.

How do the Dutch like to celebrate a changing of the monarch? The same way they celebrate every other day: by being awesome, slurping mayo, and staying vocal all night.

…Albeit in a slightly oranger shade of clothing and hair than usual.

The downside to this national event is that hotels and flights to Amsterdam are going to be more expensive than usual.

Book accommodation early or be prepared to spend your evenings paying €50 per 15 minutes to curl up feebly in a hooker’s nest. You snooze, you lose.

For more information and to RSVP, check out the official Facebook Page.

Recommended This Week:

  • I want to say a special ‘thank you’ to everybody who’s picked up a copy of my brand new Affiliate Marketing Survival Guide 2013. The book shot straight to #1 on Amazon’s Marketing bestsellers in the space of 12 hours. Booya! If you haven’t yet grabbed the book, a) Why are we still friends? b) Get one here. It’s $5.

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