Will Brilling, Commercial Manager at Brilling Media, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
By combining classic brand strategy and account planning, Brilling Media turn a brand's capability into content, services and campaigns. Will Brilling and a couple of friends acquired a few domains, and had a mind-set to create something - follow his story below.
How did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?
It started as a pet project between friends really. We have various backgrounds but we met in Malta and realised that all of us had a burning desire for online marketing. Poker is what sparked the interest but the iGaming vertical, especially Casino, became the choice of product as we found it challenging and interesting. Not gonna lie, it was also the vertical that we felt that we could thrive the most in, being the most innovative product of them all the past few years. We’re not exclusively working with iGaming, but also with Finance, which is a vertical which is equally demanding in terms of regulatory changes and highly competitive.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
It all started with a couple of friends, a few acquired domains and a mind-set to create something. It was never about building a big company, but to actually start something and have fun while doing it. This idea hasn’t changed since. We’re still having fun and we’re far from finished with what we’ve started.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
The iGaming industry is still a very young industry, and we’ve seen a lot of companies that often try to grow too quickly which leads to bloated and often unfocused operations. We believe in being lean and we have no desire to scale just for the sake of scaling. We work with several freelancers that are experts in their fields and that can bring something to the table, people that are better than us in their fields.
Each separate project doesn’t need to perform the first couple of months, but for us, it’s important to give each project the focus it deserves.
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
We only desire to work with partners that we can see a long term relationship with, and that perception usually starts in the first email or call we have with our new potential partner. Being responsive, professional and catering for a smooth onboarding gets you a long way with us. We’re fortunate enough to have team members coming from an operator background so we understand what a reasonable request is, and what isn’t.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
By educating the reader. I’ve seen many examples where sites would use industry lingo rather than being descriptive and actually review a casino to someone that likely isn’t a seasoned gambler. Same goes for tricky terms, we know they’re out there, but many of our visitors don’t necessarily read them from start to finish, if there is something particular in the terms that is not according to standard, we’re not gonna sugar coat it, we’ll highlight that so that the reader is aware. It’s our reputation on the line and we aim to be as accurate as we can.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
I believe a lot of affiliates put energy into their sites only for the time it takes to reach specific ranks, and then move on to the next thing. When focusing on Casino traffic, there is not too much room for innovation besides good engaging content that the customers will come back for, as well as making the UX as good as possible.
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 would definitely at least contemplate selling separate sites & projects if the price is right. Taking in investments isn’t something that we’ve really discussed but could also be taken into consideration as long as it wouldn’t lead to investors being too involved in our day to day work.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
Being able to work independently is definitely the key factor we are looking for in the people we work with. Innovation comes from trying new things and seeing where they land. Everything doesn’t need to fly perfectly but being able to independently take an idea from start to finish is key, regardless of the end result.
What sets you apart from other affiliates?
Saying that we work REALLY hard is obviously a bit of a cliche, but I really do think that just putting in the hours is the most important part of any operation. If your skillset isn't in line with your ambition, you need to improve it, which we do constantly. Whether it’s learning what fun convoluted mess the latest google update brought, or new innovative ways of attracting the right visitors.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Working in an industry that is completely online has obviously been a huge blessing now during the corona lockdowns and something that we are extremely happy about. We have all worked remotely during big parts of our lives while travelling etc, so we already had a set plan for how things would look with the office being temporarily closed.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?
To be honest, I don’t see AI and Big Data playing a big part in the affiliate industry for us yet. Affiliate Platforms and Tools will definitely be benefiting from emerging technologies. When we work with a new program, we would love to be able to be given the correct links and offers based on our GEO’s straight away rather than scrolling through pages and pages of banners that are not only irrelevant to us, but also many times showing an offer that is no longer valid.
In a dream world, we’d fetch the right bonus offer through an API call and that would be a game-changer, but it wouldn’t be essential.
Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered going down the operator route?
Not really. I admire the ones that do though – it takes guts and grit to become an operator. We’re fortunate enough to be able to work with different sites which mean that we’re still operational tomorrow should one site disappear. Running your own online sportsbook or casino weights in so many other different factors and now more than ever, it’s evident that it’s not an easy job. When the world of sports shuts down, no matter how good your sportsbook product is, you’re still dependent on the sports to be played.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2020, and why?
We constantly follow the news and review new markets and opportunities, and rather than jumping on the US train, we’ve decided to make LATAM and Japan our priority.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
For us personally, it hasn’t made any bigger impact, one of our key points when starting was to be transparent to our visitors which means that we adapted to showcase key terms, age restrictions and keeping our content age-appropriate. In an industry with constant changes, you have to be fast to adapt which I feel that we are. We also decided to not put any efforts into Germany as the affiliate landscape there is very uncertain.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
Some Asian markets are for sure the most appealing right now, especially Japan which a lot of operators have picked up on. It’s important to understand that these markets are different in more ways than just the currency used as player preferences differ a lot from other regions.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
Great question - I wish we had a greater understanding of how small things can impact big time, for good and bad. A beautifully designed banner can be very nice to the eye - but have an impact on your site speed.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
Thankfully, I’ve haven’t encountered a situation which I would call a nightmare. To me, problems are there to be solved, not to dwell over. The closest thing I can think of was losing my luggage when travelling for an iGaming Conference in Europe, but that was resolved within hours.
What are the main challenges for the sector in 2020?
Planning for how the industry will look after the pandemic. Besides the lack of sports, the iGaming industry has been thriving so far during this time, but it’s impossible to predict the outcome and I don’t see that the growth is sustainable, the key will be to be very adaptive to the situations that may arise.
Regulation is also a hot potato as markets evolve and change, we welcome change though as this means that the industry will most likely be considered less taboo.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
Every couple of years you see someone or something coming up with the next great idea, we saw Leovegas adapting to a mobile-first future and we saw Trustly changing the whole payment flow for the better with their Pay n Play product. I predict that more markets will regulate and that we’ll see less industry standards and more market-specific requirements going forward.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators?
Being based in Malta surely makes our day to day operations and relationships easier as we can meet our partners on a regular basis, for us, going to conferences is not about meeting existing partners but to meet new potential partners and to showcase our products to them, and also to stay up to date with the latest trends in the industry.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
To me, it’s beneficial to see the latest trends, upcoming brands and see what the next big thing might be, and also learn about other spectrums of the industry, not just specifically meet existing or new operators. Being able to put a face to a Skype name is also very important to me. Rarely have we settled all the details of a new partnership at a conference, but properly introducing yourself to a new partner in person is always beneficial.
There are things I think iGaming events could do better, proper seating areas and having vendors that actually accept card payments or a pop-up ATM would surely make my overall experiences better.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
Being located in the heart of the industry, SiGMA Malta is definitely the main industry event for us, not only because we are based in Malta, but also because of what it has become, we’ve seen SiGMA Malta grow into an absolute powerhouse and it’s the one conference we never miss. Manila would also definitely be interesting for the future, even if just for the location itself.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!
My interest in building websites has been there for as long as I can remember, and after football practice, I would run home and build horrible looking websites in Angelfire or Geocities. My iGaming interest sparked during the Poker Boom while watching legends such as Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey battle it out for ridiculous amounts of money. To this day, I still can’t understand how they had the balls to be so calm while playing for so big amounts. Oh well, that last part is more relevant to Mr Ivey than Mr Hellmuth.
What’s on your must-read list right now?
I am currently pretentiously enough trying to go through the Russian classics and seeing as we’re in the iGaming industry I would have to say The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Great and quick read, especially compared to the 2000 pages the Russians usually rounded things up at back in the days.
Which quote do you live your life by?
One that springs to mind is from Michael Jordan who once said: “Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation”. I’m no Michael Jordan myself but I admire his achievements and his grit to get to where he got. Looking for solutions to problems instead of accepting them is a way I try to live by.
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SiGMA's biggest iGathering is back with a bang! The networking event at Montekristo will host the iGaming & Emerging Tech community for a ‘post-pandemic’ conversation as SiGMA launches its new calendar!
The event is exclusive for 500 people only and if you would like to be part of it, please email Emily.