Jamie Lewis, Founder at Rix Digital, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Jamie Lewis's background in news media and digital acquisition have led to him becoming one of the more recognisable personalities in the iGaming community - follow his story below.
How did your affiliate marketing business take off?
I spent years walking around affiliate conferences pitching my ideas to the affiliate managers of practically every iGaming company you can imagine. Every single casino, sportsbook, affiliate network, and anything else in between rejected literally all of the ideas I had.
After a couple of years of almost pure rejection at conferences, a big network got in touch and asked me to work across their brands. We were an instant success and I managed to invest the money we made into creating the foundations for the Rix Digital that exists today. That was almost three years ago!
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
I spent years working as a journalist for some of the biggest newspapers in the country (Independent, Evening Standard, Mirror, and more). Becoming disillusioned with the industry, I got picked up by a content marketing agency who taught me how to combine my writing skills with performance marketing.
I fell in love with the instant gratification of data, watching your successes appear on the screen throughout the day. Data analysis was a big part of my life as a journalist - tracking traffic, understanding our audience, etc - so the transition was very natural.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
Currently, we have a team confined to Malta (thanks COVID!) for the time being, and a team working out of various places in the UK. It’s very important to me that our business can survive regardless of geographical location.
Right now we’re looking at different markets we can work in. This year we’ve started running our first non-English language campaigns, with projects appearing in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and across Europe.
We either work with, or have already worked with, a majority of big-name iGaming companies over the last three years, so a lot of our expansion operation now is building out to other industries. We’ve done car test drives, PPI, insurance, and other lead gen markets - but there are lots of new markets popping up that I can’t wait to get involved with!
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
There are a number of issues with the affiliate marketing space, in my opinion. The market is finite, so communication and relationships are absolutely required to make it work. This presents a challenge in itself.
We limit our affiliate work because deals are, more often than not, weighted too heavily toward either the client or the affiliate.
It is difficult to determine the longevity (and subsequently profitability) of a project when these challenges exist. When it’s favoured to the client, the affiliate will simply leave and find a better offer repeatedly, never being able to optimise a long-lasting campaign.
If it’s favoured toward the affiliate, then the client will simply stop the deal in its existing format and formulate a client-focused deal, which will again result in the affiliate leaving and finding a new client.
Both of these eventualities stunt the learning curve for both parties and, in my opinion, make it an unattractive way to spend energy.
How can affiliate marketers be more unique in their approach?
Affiliate marketers are copycats! This is definitely a huge challenge in industries, such as iGaming, which are dominated by affiliate marketing.
We see it all the time - we upload a new campaign, style, or content, and within a week we find practically the same idea promoting another company. In some cases, the content is copied word-for-word, with simply the name of the operator changed.
What they don’t realise is that the copied materials are one of a hundred different materials, not all of which are working effectively, not all of which can be found by a single person.
The reason that we are spending more and more every year is that we are constantly trying new things. Don’t get me wrong - sometimes these ideas fail miserably, but our philosophy is to try everything and anything, so at least we can rule out concepts or designs that don’t work.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
We have a long history of providing first-class results, and that is what we promise to our clients. Our teams genuinely care about the outcome of their campaigns and the wellbeing of our clients. I’m extremely proud of the way we’ve managed to grow from a one-man team to a global operation.
As a result, we can offer that personal service that Rix had become known for in the industry but on a slightly wider scale. We’re always looking for new clients to show what we can do and, I hope, we can continue to grow out as we do.
Most importantly though - the moment we start working with a new operator, our goal is to ensure that trusting in us was an excellent idea. The market, as I keep saying, is finite, and most people in the industry know each other. If someone you’re pitching to circles back and asks a previous or current client about you - you need to be certain that all the feedback is positive.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
We’ve had a number of offers for acquisition thrown at us over the last two years and, at least so far, we’re yet to really find something that works. There is something very satisfying about building your own brand and going in to work every morning to wave your own flag.
Rix is my mother’s maiden name, so the name in itself means a lot to me - I’m not sure how I would feel about losing that banner.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate marketing team/business?
By far and away, the most important skill is communication. Being able to pitch your ideas effectively and in a way that your audience understands is vital. There are a finite number of iGaming companies - fewer still if you’re geographically locked. Don’t burn your bridges, and treat junior staff with absolute respect - someone who is employed to help you with one client can very quickly become a financial decision-maker in their next job.
Being open and prepared for change is essential. We are very confident in our ability to tilt to our clients’ and needs, depending on the social, political, or regulatory circumstances. That’s something that has only been emboldened in the COVID period. Responsiveness to change is absolutely key.
What sets you apart from other affiliate marketers?
One of the biggest differences between us and other marketers is the competitiveness that underlines our approach, both internally and externally. We are here to make a financial return for the people who have put their trust in us - and that’s that.
Even in internal team meetings, we are constantly making goals for each other and our clients and everyone who works with us is extremely keen to better the others. Those who do well, or prove that an idea is as good as they initially suggested, have bragging rights for days (and rarely forget this!).
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
It plays a massive role, of course. We were working remotely before it was cool! We often say on group calls how it’s weird we’ve never all been in the same room at the same time and it’s true! Our expertise started mostly in Facebook marketing, and acquisition and retention models surrounding the platform.
These days, we work across practically all performance marketing platforms, with specialists in each area, but whitehat Facebook ads are still our bread and butter.
Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered going down the operator route?
We work with a number of different operators as inhouse acquisition consultants, working across paid social media campaigns and conversion consultancy - so it feels like we’re a foot in the operator door anyway!
Every week we sit in on internal calls, help our clients pick and choose other agencies, and go far above and beyond what an affiliate would usually do.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2020, and why?
Esports! We’ve already got a number of really cool esports products on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this market can shake up the industry. For years, all of our respective target audiences (or lowest hanging fruit) has been made up of a very similar type of person. With the increasing legitimacy of esports, I believe that has massive implications for marketers moving forward.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
The UK is currently looking into banning online advertising for gambling, which would obviously be a huge blow for our business. We steer clear of Swedish markets, for obvious reasons, and it would be a shame if we were restricted in the same sense for our ‘home market’.
However, we pride ourselves in constantly pivoting and creating new opportunities wherever possible - whatever happens I’m certain we’ll find bigger and better ideas.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
That anything is possible! I remember feeling so restricted by compliance issues or Facebook policy, but what we’ve found is that there’s a creative solution for everything and anything. Facebook doesn’t like your material? Find another platform. Change the wording. Add more T&Cs. There’s a whole host of options which mean your business isn’t dead.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators?
I could just be lucky, but in my opinion, this isn’t a challenge at all. We have a great relationship with every single one of our clients, and that is built on a platform of mutual respect and trust. We wouldn’t be able to have the insights we do, or access to internal meetings, without that relationship in place.
Sometimes a vast majority of the work we do is in communicating effectively. While this can take some time - especially when speaking with people who aren’t native to English - the results of that effort often mean our pitches go through that little bit smoother, budgets can be moved and new opportunities can be fulfilled.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
After several years of these, it’s mostly a networking opportunity for me. We know most of the faces at these kinds of events and often use them as an opportunity to catch up with clients past and present.
We attend more often than not to remind those people that we’re still here, ready to send them high-quality traffic, and capable of doing it at the lowest possible expense to the operator.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I’m in Malta right now but have never been to SiGMA (sorry, guys!). I’ve been booked to go a few times, but for whatever reason, I’ve not been able to attend. I do need to attend at the earliest possible time, though, as it’s starting to become something people are laughing at me for!
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!
My background is in national news - I was a journalist and editor at some of the biggest national titles in the UK (Independent, Standard, Mirror, more). I used to travel 90 minutes each way to work for 12 hours. Sixty hours was considered a slow news week!
These days I work longer hours than that, but it doesn’t feel like work. Chatting with clients every day and coming up with creative solutions for their headaches feels more like showing off your skills and experience than working for someone else.
When I actually do get some time off my favourite things to do are play poker and Starcraft 2! Though, admittedly, I am getting into Valorant a little bit these days.
Which quote do you live your life by?
The official Rix Digital motto is ‘Teamwork makes the dream work!’ - but as people often note, it’s super generic. Personally, I like Einstein’s ‘Once you stop learning, you start dying’ - everything we do here is based around perpetual learning. The campaigns we create today look nothing like what we did when we started out - or even earlier this year - and I’m super proud of that. Everything we do is based on perpetual learning and evolving. Even if you have a winning formula, you can still improve.
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About SiGMA LatAm Focus:
This event brings the Americas closer to delegates from Europe and Asia, with an interesting agenda featuring a line-up of speakers that showcases the company’s commitment to covering the various gaming verticals. Explore the full agenda here and register now, this one’s on us!