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    GPWA Aaron is offline Former Staff Member
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    Default Affiliate Manager Interview Series | Tom Jones, Cherry Affiliates

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    You have worked in the industry for a few years now, including time at InterPartners and with bringit. You've now been the head of affiliates for Cherry Affiliates for nearly a year. Why did Cherry Affiliates appeal to you? And how did the transition to the new company go?
    It was the project as a whole that appealed to me the most. Cherry is a massive company (employing over 700 staff) and has an amazing history in Scandinavia, where weíre celebrating our 50th anniversary this year. Their pedigree speaks for itself; as one of the forebears for Betsson and NetEnt, the plans they had going forward to cultivate the online side of the company are incredibly exciting. From a personal point of view, it gave me the chance to be an integral part of an emerging side of their business and be there from the start. As you mentioned, Iíve worked previously at both established and start-up casinos and I think that experience has served me well to be part of the growth of an established business, helping to nurture part of their expanding online entity.

    Judging by the forum posts at the GPWA, you've done a pretty good job building relationships with affiliates and other affiliate managers over the years. Why do you feel it's so important to have those relationships with affiliates, and also with the affiliate managers who work for your competitors?
    Weíre all in the same boat at the end of the day. Of course it is competitive, but I can happily say Iíve learned most from the people around me, both in the companies Iíve worked with and those from other iGaming providers. Iíve been involved with affiliate marketing for six years, both in iGaming and out, and it is such a close community that you donít get anywhere without being able to be receptive to othersí thoughts and ideas. There is a lot that you can learn from affiliates and you also have the chance to impart knowledge to others, so itís really a great place to be.

    You were quite active on the GPWA forums when you were at InterPartners. Can we expect a return to a high frequency of posts now that you're with Cherry Affiliates?
    Ha! I try to be involved as much as possible, of course, and the GPWA is a great place to keep abreast of what is going on in the iGaming world. Itís so fast paced that you canít afford to look away! If you donít hear from me, Iím sure Elaine (our affiliate manager) will be around to be involved in discussions and happy to answer questions from affiliates.

    What role do conferences play in terms of spreading the word about a brand like Cherry Affiliates? What kind of presence will Cherry Affiliates have at upcoming conferences?
    Like the performance marketing business in general, affiliate conferences have evolved (for the better) into a more professional and valuable part of the business. They are a great opportunity to meet existing and potential partners from across the globe, showcasing your brand and hearing the exciting plans that both affiliates and operators have. Cherry was at LAC 2013 and we will be in attendance in Amsterdam, Barcelona and beyond.

    One of the Cherry Affiliates brands, PlayCherry, recently underwent a rebranding process to become EuroSlots. Why did management decide to undergo the rebranding process? And what results have you seen from your efforts to date?
    We had been planning to release EuroSlots for some time and the impending closure of IGTís Entraction meant that we could not continue with PlayCherry in the same way, and this realization expedited the whole process. The reaction has been very pleasing; players and affiliates have really taken to the brand, and weíre seeing the hard work come to fruition. We have not only seen a boost from older or lapsed PlayCherry players, but a great number of new players have also come to try the casino, and the retention rate has been very impressive, too. We must be doing something right.

    How concerned are/were you about losing players during the transition? What should brands that are rebranding do in order to ensure an easy transition for players?
    From a technical standpoint, it was actually very smooth. It had been planned for a while, so everything was in place and we had no issues at all and the change to the new brand actually boosted player activity. The old casino offering was out of date and in dire need of a refresh. EuroSlots has been a long time in development. Itís easier to use, with a vast array of the latest games, so it was exactly what our players needed.

    Did players who were transitioned to the new site retain their affiliate tags? If so, how do you ensure that affiliates get credit for the players they had sent to Play Cherry?
    Yes, this was something that was ensured from the start. Our partners are very important to us, especially with the launch of any new brand, so we made sure that our affiliates were moved over with their tags in place. Although activity wasnít high at the end of PlayCherry, we knew that the new brand would boost interest of lapsed players, so affiliates would also benefit from the change.

    The other brand that Cherry Affiliates promotes is EuroLotto.com. How big is the online lottery sales market? And what can affiliates earn by promoting online lottery sales?
    What we offer is something genuinely unique. The weekly Ä25,000,000 draw is the largest in Europe and we make the draw live on TV and via the Internet. In addition to that, we also have a range of scratch cards available to customers, so it really is the complete ďlotteryĒ package. Iím happy to say that this brand is having an overhaul to improve the offering further very soon.

    With such European-focused names, do you only allow players from European countries to play real-money games on the sites? Or can affiliates who target other markets send their players to EuroSlots and EuroLotto.com?
    As the name suggests, we do appeal mostly to European players and pay in euros. Thatís not to say that we canít accept players from other countries, but the languages we have and the ďlook and feelĒ that weíve gone for on the site is very Euro-centric. Essentially, weíve taken the ethos from our Scandinavian-focused sites and moved that success into a more pan-European site. The idea is then to release more brands as we go along, some very soon, which will appeal to other markets more specifically.

    It's one thing to bring in new people to a site. It's another thing entirely to get them to stick around. What do the Cherry Affiliates brands do to retain players sent by affiliates?
    Weíve undertaken some great initiatives and have invested in some of the best technologies in the business to ensure our CRM is one of the bet out there. Not only that, we have partnered with (and are continuing to launch with) the leading game providers to ensure that we have the latest games available that players want, meaning they donít need to go anywhere else. We know that players like to shop around to find the games and services that suit them, so it was up to us to provide the best longevity we can to make sure that every playerís potential lifespan is fully realized.

    What do affiliates need to know about Cherry Affiliates in order to effectively market their brands? What distinguishes the Cherry Affiliates brands from other online casinos, both in terms of the player's experience and what you offer affiliates?
    Weíve been doing this for a long time and can quite proudly say we are innovators in both online and offline mediums. Weíve been able to channel this into our new casino product and the extra brands that are coming out in the coming months and years. Iíve felt for a while that the spirit of casino has been tainted by casinos falling over themselves to offer bigger bonuses to get the highest listing on affiliate sites, while forgetting what is most important Ė the casino experience. Of course we offer competitive bonuses, but weíve concentrated most on offering the best casino possible Ė 24/7 support, quick cash outs, instant bonuses and promotions, real-time stats of your play Ė everything a discerning or new player would need or expect.

    Describe the office culture at Cherry Affiliates. If there were a fly on the wall, what are some of the topics of conversation it would hear about at the water cooler?
    Weíre lucky to have some of the best people in the industry in our offices. Theyíre young, hungry and successful in their respective fields, and more importantly, they have a passion for the business. At the moment, summer is coming, so everyone is obsessed with the gym. That may be mostly my fault as much of it started as a bet between a few of us, but as far as hobbies go, I think itís one of the better ones to be involved in!

    What do you know about the industry now that you wish you knew when you first started?
    Anything I know now would have come in handy back then! Things change so fast and are so unpredictable on almost a daily basis that some sort of crystal ball would have been invaluable. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    How do you ensure that payments are sent out on time? And when do your payments go out?
    All reporting, reconciliation and auditing is done on the first of the month, so once that is done, it is sent to our accounting department to pay as soon as possible. We plan to ensure payments are in affiliatesí accounts by the 10th of each month at the latest and are looking to make that faster. We also have a very wide variety of payment methods, including Bank Transfers, Skrill and Neteller, and are adding more all the time.

    Where do you think the industry will be in five years?
    It's very hard to say as regulation and technology change constantly, but I think that is the nature of the beast. Regulated markets, mobile, social gaming Ė many things are at tentative stages, so itís hard to really tell what will happen with so many new things going on at the same time. Itís up to us to push the industry forward, be part of the changes involved and ensure that we are innovators. Itís certainly going to be a fun ride.

    Where are you from originally? And how do you like living in Malta?
    I'm from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere called Ystradowen, in the south of Wales, surrounded by green fields and rolling hills; however, I spend most of my formative years in lovely Essex, England. Iíve been in Malta for almost three years now and Iím still enjoying it. Itís a bit on the small side and I do miss the greenery of home, but this is an amazing place to be able to see the rest of Europe; there are always flights to anywhere youíd want to go. The weather here isnít bad, either.

    If someone from out of town were to visit you, where is the one place you would have to take them?
    Although small, Malta does have a lot to offer. We donít have the best beaches in the world, but the amount of heritage sites, restaurants, nightlife and amazing things to see more than makes up for that. If the sun is out, meet me at Exiles, if you can find it.

    Word on the street is that you went to college not too far from the GPWA home offices, at Keene State in New Hampshire, and that you were a rugby player. Describe what college rugby is like in the U.S. And do you still play?
    I was pleasantly surprised at the level of rugby in the States. It's not a big sport compared to the "American" sports, but those who are involved are fervently part of the game. For a Welshman, passion for rugby is part of the culture and it was great to be a part of that even though I was thousands of miles away from home. I played for a bit in Malta, where again the standard is surprisingly high. I had quite a bad ankle injury about six months back, which meant I couldnít play for quite some time. I've developed into a bit of a gym-rat since being out, so Rugby has been put on the back-burner for now.

    You were also a writer for the student newspaper, The Equinox. Why did you decide to get into affiliate marketing instead of journalism?
    I enjoyed journalism a lot, but I did more of a Marketing degree and part of that covered Affiliate Marketing, which at the time was somewhat still in its infancy. It sounded interesting and I decided to learn more about it in my spare time and was lucky enough to get a job at Affiliate Window once Iíd concluded my studies, which was the perfect platform for my career to date.

    What's the best movie food?
    You can't really look past popcorn and a Coke out of the machine, can you? I'm a bit old-school when it comes to cinema food.

    What is the last book you read? Did you enjoy it? And did you read it on an e-reader? Or do you need to have a copy of the physical book in your hand?
    I dislike e-readers with a passion. There is something different about holding a book in your hands, intrinsically linked to something a bit more definite and classic. You lose that with something like a Kindle.

    Currently, Iím reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin. Amazing books Ė and I am really enjoying the Game of Thrones series that has been produced from it, too.

    What is your favorite movie?
    The Blues Brothers. Hands down. Iím sure most would be tempted to say Scarface or The Shawshank Redemption, but I must have seen The Blues Brothers 100 times and it never gets old.

    If you had a theme song, what would it be?
    With a name like mine, what else could I pick but ďItís Not UnusualĒ by Tom Jones? I practically grew up having it sung to me!

    If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?
    I'm lucky enough to have traveled quite a bit, but the one place that I really want to go now is the Philippines. I've heard some amazing things about it and I think that would be my next destination of choice. From places Iíve been, I never fail to have an amazing time in California.

    If you could have dinner with three other people, living or dead, who would they be?
    Stephen Fry, John Cleese and Jeremy Clarkson. All very astute, witty, opinionated people with a lot to say for themselves. Things certainly wouldnít get boring.

    What would you do if you just inherited a pizzeria from your uncle?
    I like to cook, but running a restaurant is utterly out of my comfort zone. I think Iíd give it to my little brother to look after; he's an amazing cook and has been working as a sous chef for a few years. Not sure heíd be much of a fan of pizza, mind you.

    What are three things that no one knows about you?
    Things that I can share? Novelist Catherine Cookson is my great-aunt, composer Stanley Black is my great-great uncle and I once kicked Nigel Benn when I was five!

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    Renee (9 October 2013)

  3. #2
    Maria F is offline Former AM
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    Thank you for sharing!
    I would also like to have dinner with Stephen Fry and John Cleese.

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    I had no idea that you were Welsh!
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  5. #4
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    muffincrumbs is offline Public Member
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    Word on the street is that you went to college not too far from the GPWA home offices, at Keene State in New Hampshire, and that you were a rugby player. Describe what college rugby is like in the U.S. And do you still play?
    I was pleasantly surprised at the level of rugby in the States. It's not a big sport compared to the "American" sports, but those who are involved are fervently part of the game. For a Welshman, passion for rugby is part of the culture and it was great to be a part of that even though I was thousands of miles away from home. I played for a bit in Malta, where again the standard is surprisingly high. I had quite a bad ankle injury about six months back, which meant I couldn’t play for quite some time. I've developed into a bit of a gym-rat since being out, so Rugby has been put on the back-burner for now.
    Cool interview!

    Both my wife and I went to Franklin Pierce, right next to Keen State.

    Small world!!

  6. #5
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    CasinoTom is offline Public Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Renee View Post
    I had no idea that you were Welsh!
    Certainly am! Don't let the 'knees up mother brown' mockney accent fool you

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    Quote Originally Posted by CasinoTom View Post
    Certainly am! Don't let the 'knees up mother brown' mockney accent fool you
    Haha it certainly sounds more like an Essex accent than a Welsh accent.
    On another note, Wales is one of my favourite places to visit. I've been there at least 4 or 5 times.
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