"The industry is ever changing, and as an affiliate you are often fighting the margins  - mainly within paid marketing," Asbjørn Bieling-Hansen

Asbjørn Bieling-Hansen, Director of Paid Marketing at GiG Media, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when almost all sport events were cancelled, despite having a lot of exposure on sports, Asbjørn and his colleagues at GiG Media broke several records - follow his story below.

Asbjørn Bieling-HansenHow did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?

GiG Media was founded in 2008 under the name of Innovation Labs Ltd.  Through the years GiG built and acquired a large portfolio of assets in several iGaming verticals and as of today, GIG Media counts more than 110 employees and is one of the biggest iGaming affiliates in the industry. I joined as a part of an acquisition and have been here since October 2017.

How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?

I was introduced to the affiliate and gaming industry in 2014, when I started in a Copenhagen based company, Rebel Penguin (which was acquired by GiG in 2017). It’s fair to say that my focus has always been in the Gaming space.

How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?

GiG Media is the affiliate marketing branch of Gaming Innovation Group (GiG). We work in two major departments: one being our publishing department and the other being our paid media assets, which is my area of responsibility.

More specifically, paid media for us relates to marketing channels such as SEM, Social Media, Display Advertising, Permission Marketing, etc.

What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?

I believe that operators should think of their role with affiliates as business developers. Often they will have great insights on how the operator and affiliate can grow their business collaboratively. I believe this can elevate the quality of traffic and products a lot. Especially with smaller affiliates that are new in the space.

How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?

By thinking broader in ways of acquiring traffic. The days of one-channel approach are over. There are tons of ways to acquire traffic. It’s a very competitive industry, so it will require affiliates to be more creative in finding new ways of getting ahead of the competition.

What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?

I think we have a lot of good things going on in terms of traffic acquisition. In GiG Media we have invested a lot in building our own proprietary marketing technology. This allows us to be some steps ahead of the competition in some areas of especially paid marketing. I am personally always looking for new ways of acquiring traffic.

Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?

Agility above all. The industry is ever changing, and as an affiliate you are often fighting the margins - mainly within paid marketing. In iGaming especially, the policies are changing and countries are opening up (and closing in some cases). I have often said: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”.

What sets you apart from other affiliates?

There are a lot of great affiliates out there. Some affiliates focus a lot on product, and some focus a lot on traffic. Less affiliates manage to find the perfect mix of the two. I believe that we are pretty far on that journey. We have some great products and we have managed to get a very wide mix of profitable marketing channels. 

How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?

Technology plays a huge part in our daily operations in GiG Media. We have developed a lot of software to work specifically for our needs; everything from data management to campaign management. Tied together it gives us a big edge in a very competitive marketplace.

Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered going down the operator route?

I really like my role on the affiliate side in the industry. I like the challenge most of all - no two days are the same. For now at least, I enjoy working with the biggest brands in the industry as well as the autonomy to move fast and scale in so many different markets. 

Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2020, and why?

WSNWe are always looking to increase our customer and partner mix. There are many very interesting developments in many territories. COVID-19 has taught many in the industry - how important it is to have your risk and exposure spread. We are focusing a lot on the US with our flagship sports product www.wsn.com.

How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.

One of our most well known reactions to the increased focus on regulation was to build our own compliance software. Not long after, we commercialized this software into “GiG Comply”. We are generally welcoming regulation, as this will open many doors for us - especially for our traffic acquisition mix. Sometimes regulations can seem bleak, but usually I find that it’s darkest before dawn. It’s about seeing the opportunities and not dwelling in adversity.

    
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?

How the Tesla stock has developed in recent years.

What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?

I don’t have nightmares. But I must admit that I held my breath for a while when almost all sports were cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I learned so much from this. And even though we had an exposure on sports, we ended up breaking several records in April-May-June 2020.

What are the main challenges for the sector in 2020?

Again - you can’t really mention 2020 without thinking about COVID-19. I am excited to see the reactions after this crisis, especially from land based casinos, as many of these took a very big hit on their revenue expectations for 2020.

What are your predictions for the future of the sector?

The “easy” answer will probably be to say that the industry (both for affiliates and operators) will continue to consolidate. Requirements to operate continues to increase in many markets, so having a strong infrastructure as an affiliate will only be more needed going forward. This, I believe, will make it less and less attractive for new smaller traditional affiliates. I say traditional because I think the market is opening up for non-traditional means of driving traffic. I see a huge opportunity here.

How do you manage relationships with multiple operators?

Trust has always been a key factor in the relationships with our partners and something that is at the heart of our business. A strong foundation based on trust, simply makes it easier to create mutual goals beneficial for both parties.

  
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?

Going to different iGaming events is a great way of catching up with old industry friends and partners. It is something I really enjoy and look forward to being able to attend again. Hopefully in the not too far future.

Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?

I have been attending SiGMA Malta for the last three years. I like that we have a great conference in Malta. We have our headquarters in Malta, and in SiGMA week everyone from the industry seems to be flying in. This is great for networking and being efficient in making new acquaintances and partnerships.

Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!

Being born and raised in a small town in Denmark, I was happy to move to Copenhagen in 2010. Professionally, my background is very much within performance marketing. Before joining the iGaming space, I helped customers and agencies plan their campaigns in Google.

Some achievements include recording an album and touring with my band, winning chess championships, reading one book a week for a year, walking 830 km in 14 days, and having the best people close to me.

What’s on your must-read list right now?

Thinking in Bets - Annie DukeCan’t Hurt Me - David GogginsLife 3.0 - Max TegmarkThinking in Bets - Annie Duke

Can’t Hurt Me - David Goggins

Life 3.0 - Max Tegmark

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SiGMA Americas:

Following the successful launch of SiGMA Europe (Malta) and SiGMA Asia (Manila), we’re now launching the inaugural SiGMA AMERICAS, covering all three major timezones. The inaugural edition is set for September 22-24, 2020 with a virtual summit focusing on two themes: SiGMA AMERICAS for the Gaming industry and AIBC AMERICAS for the Emerging Tech industry. We wanted to provide fresh content, to help you navigate through these turbulent times. If you’re exploring Americas as a new frontier or wondering which tech solutions to embrace, we've got you covered: tune in on September 22-24, 2020.

 

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