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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
(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!
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