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    Default Affiliate Interview Series -- Fredrik Wadstein -- Buzzluck

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    Buzzluck is a 3D casino with entertainment – beyond the game – built in. Do you find it easier or more difficult to promote a casino where the games aren’t the only attraction?
    Easier. Who needs another RTG, Microgaming or any supplier casino? Been there, done that… how’s that going to attract players? Still, one of the hurdles we had when launching was getting affiliates onboard with the idea of something new and innovative and getting them comfortable with promoting the casino. They know that the “traditional” online casino model works and generates earnings for them, so to enter unchartered territory, it’s understandable that they had reservations.

    I think the most common reaction from an affiliate perspective was the concern that our 3D lobby and Live Lounge, two core components of the Buzzluck experience, would distract players from depositing and playing casino games. In fact, by offering these core differentiating components, it gives affiliates something to talk about to their traffic and it gives players a better overall casino experience, keeping them engaged and on our site for a longer time.

    Players are becoming bored with the same old casino games. With the growth of high-speed/broadband Internet penetration across the globe and online users’ growing appetite for video consumption, expectations have changed. Players like to be constantly engaged via constantly changing social networks like Facebook or Twitter, entertained by the ever-growing YouTube; static just isn’t enough in the 21st century. Hence, that’s why we say, Never Bored. Always changing. Something different.

    Relatively new affiliate programs and casinos often take a while to gain traction with affiliates, because they’re waiting to see a track record of performance. How difficult has it been to break through into the market? Did you have to take any special measures to spur the process along? If so, what were they?
    Our most aggressive measure back when we launched in Feb 2009 was to offer our charter affiliates a 50 percent flat rev share for 12 months. That has never been done before and it definitely got us some good publicity, but we didn’t get a wave of affiliates registering to take us up on the offer, which was expected. As you said, affiliates with experience in the gaming industry will wait until we’ve passed our “growing pains” period in order to get a track record of performance before joining.

    But at the same time, our having been in the business for years helped enormously. We know who to talk to, who the affiliate “trend setters” are, and they knew that if these guys were associated with a casino, it wouldn’t be rogue. We have our charter affiliates that joined from the very beginning and I think they believed in what we were trying to do with Buzzluck in offering players a new and unique experience, and they’re seeing it pay off. And as one affiliate told me, which sums it all up…“I honestly haven’t been excited about a new casino in a while but this looks great.”

    What differentiates the Buzzluck Affiliate Program from other affiliate programs?
    I would say my 8 years of marketing experience in the iGaming industry is what differentiates the program from others. My past work experience dealt primarily with acquisition marketing activities from media planning and buying for both online and offline campaigns to implementing email programs, and through the years, it has given me a lot of insight into what works and doesn’t work.

    The Buzzluck Affiliate Program has a Twitter account. How do you see Twitter helping you market yourselves – both as a casino and an affiliate program? How do you see Twitter changing the nature of marketing?
    Twitter, our boss always says, is like the US CB radio fad of the seventies. Apparently ’way back in 1976 everyone was buying CB radios and had “handles” and chatted with each other, usually fairly inanely, but sometimes with useful information, e.g., “There’s a smokey up yonder at I 80 exit 19, better slow down.” They even made a movie and had a hit single, “Convoy.” Ludicrous to look at it now… but it’s a fad for you.

    Twitter as a real-time utility will no doubt be incorporated into the myriad of ways we communicate, but we’re there as an avenue for our customers and prospects to contact us. They want to tweet us, or IM, or email, or skype, or… we’re there. But it definitely doesn’t work as a new acquisition tool.

    This summer you ran a promotion that allowed players to claim a different bonus each day. What was the thought process behind creating that promotion? How successful was it? Will you be continuing to offer it through the fall and winter?
    This has been a great promotion and reflects our core values of “Never Bored.” How can you be bored when there’s a new promotion every day? It really applies traditional casino thinking, the old “Give ’em bonuses and they will come,” and skews Buzzluck-style into something new and fun and different and exciting.

    In your mind, what’s more difficult, attracting players or retaining them? And why?
    Attracting players is definitely more difficult in this industry as casino players have a huge selection of online casinos to choose from offering very aggressive bonuses. So it becomes a function of differentiation, which we have loads of, and ad spend, where, after dropping $1.5M into the development of the world’s most expensive casino Web site. is proof positive of this: millions spent monthly on boring campaigns for a weak Web site with standard games, yet they’ve generated 25 million signups over the past 11 years. So why do they only have 75,000 playing per quarter? The effort to retain players is way more expensive than acquisition. Acquisition, you can blow wads of money and get the name out there; retention, in 2009, means really getting to know each and every player so you can do what’s right for him or her.

    Tellingly,’s redeposit to initial deposit ratio is over 3.5:1; that means once we’ve got the initial trial deposit from a player, and our “player development” process kicks in, we can expect to see another three from that player. And that’s based on only four months of operation. We think it’s a key metric that not many other casinos are talking about.

    How can affiliates help in retaining players?
    In my opinion, affiliates that have active forums or incorporate various social media aspects that allow their visitors/users to engage and interact with other will build a loyal following as it is just as important for them to retain existing traffic as well as always working to generate new traffic to their site(s). The important part of retention, above good customer service, lies in “developing” players, which is marketing and selling to them on a one-to-one basis. Treating all players the same, more or less, is so pre-Buzzluck.

    Most of the affiliate managers we talk to say building trust with their affiliates is critical to success. How do you go about building trust with your affiliates?
    Pay them on time. It’s the leading indicator, after all. But I usually have a communication channel open all the time and I try to check my laptop every hour to see if I get an email or a chat from an affiliate because I know the importance of being responsive and staying on top of them. Being straight with their players is another must — not communicating through forums or other areas should be a death sentence (although I see plenty of guys not out there and still doing all right. We’ll give it some time…).

    We look to our affiliate partners, as well as players, for input and guidance. And when they see their suggestions taken and used — our first free chip promo came directly from an affiliate — they know they’re being listened to. Web 2.0, the new generation of the Web, is more about participation and contribution than anything. In the new Web, you’re part of something bigger. Keeping a straight player-affiliate-casino model is keeping your head in the sand.

    Besides trust, what are the keys to building successful relationships between affiliates and affiliate programs?
    I think the main key besides trust is being pro-active:

    • Working with affiliates on a daily/weekly basis and keeping them informed, whether it is new promotions, new payment options or anything else, they need to be kept in the loop.
    • Being proactive with new marketing tools to help affiliates drive more traffic to the casino as well as keep content on their site “fresh.”
    • Being proactive in keeping an eye on the performance of affiliates and letting them know if conversions are dropping or increasing, and working off of that information to improve.

    How long have you been in the online gambling industry? Why did you decide to enter the field? I’ve been in the industry since October 2001 when I moved to Curaçao from San Francisco. By luck, I found a “marketing assistant” job in Curaçao working for VIPsports… There, using my graphic design skills combined with my Internet knowledge, I was able to work my way up through that organization and move on to other, more exciting opportunities.

    Even here at Buzzluck, where titles are few and far between, I’m considered the “acquisition director,” not just the affiliate manager. Whatever tools I choose to use to get players falls to me. Of course, coming from the affiliate world, that’s been my first, and best, choice.

    If you wish you’d known one thing about the industry before you entered it, what would it be?
    We (the online gambling industry) are really looked at as the scum of the online industry, no matter what we do, or how we try to innovate. I think even porn sites get more respect as they are at the cutting edge of content delivery and payment processing. We’ve been painted with the same brush ever since 1998 when the spam campaigns and endless pop-ups under Kazaa annoyed prospects — another poor legacy of the early casinos. With Buzzluck, we’re trying to create a bigger experience, and use Web 2.0 tools and techniques to communicate about it.

    What advice do you have for someone just starting in the industry? Only work with the best. Their reputation quickly becomes your reputation, like it or not. So while that big offer from those seemingly well-backed guys in Portomaso Towers may look tempting, be 100% SURE that it’s a backable, saleable team with real experience or you’ll just be wasting your time.

    In your GPWA profile, you’ve listed Malta as your location. What’s the best thing about living in Malta?
    If a friend comes to visit you in Malta, what one place would you say they absolutely had to see before leaving? Best thing about Malta… it’s an island at the crossroads of the Mediterranean with 5,000 years of history. If a friend comes to visit and is looking to party every night, then Paceville is the place to be in the summer. But if you’re into sightseeing, I would definitely check out the Rotunda of St. Marija Assunta, a church in Mosta usually referred to as the Mosta Dome. According to Wikipedia, its rotunda dome is the third-largest church dome in Europe and the ninth largest in the world. Want to see structures older than the pyramids? They’re here.

    If you could have dinner with three other people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
    They’d be more dinner parties, I guess, as it’d be 1) my family: wife, kid, in-laws, my parents, 2) Wachowski brothers: Matrix did to the film industry what Buzzluck is trying to do to the online casino industry and 3) Steve Wynn, as he is the man that revitalized Vegas.

    What’s the best kind of food for the beach? And why? I
    am usually doing some kind of water sport when I’m at the beach as I get bored very quickly if I’m not doing something active, so I usually bring fruits to the beach. BBQ with ribs and wings, though, are nice if the sand is at a minimum, as it is

    What is the last book you read?
    The boss is always passing around books here, from The One Minute Entrepreneur (total crap, by the way) to Seth Godin’s Tribes (interesting and a quick read but silly in parts, but then so too is Seth Godin) to David Allen’s Getting Things Done (time management, now if I could only find the time to implement it…).

    What is your favorite movie? And why?
    I watch movies purely for the entertainment factor…the bigger the blockbuster, the better. And nothing comes close to the Matrix trilogy; despite the increasingly obscure symbology in the latter two.

    If you could change one thing about the online gaming industry, what would it be?
    Aside from its reputation, the biggest weakness is that it has become a commoditized market in which most operators, regardless of vertical, compete on bonuses alone to acquire new players. Nothing else differentiates the brands and so what all of us at eGaming 2.0 want to see happen in this industry is more innovation. That is what is all about.

    What are three things that no one knows about you?
    I hate snakes, can’t stand tequila (bad experience when I was sixteen) and even though I know roulette offers some of the worst odds in a casino, it’s still my favorite and the only game I play.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garyt View Post
    What are three things that no one knows about you?
    I hate snakes, can’t stand tequila (bad experience when I was sixteen) and even though I know roulette offers some of the worst odds in a casino, it’s still my favorite and the only game I play.
    You can't stand Tequila? I would say Sambuka after our Curacao days!
    Simon Eaton - Online marketing consultancy with 20 years experience

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    Nice interview Fred. Liked the reference you made about 'Portomaso'

    John A. Benjamin

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