Crushing Their Competition

I am pleased to bring you the next interview in my ongoing CEO in the Spotlight series. Brandon and I actually go back a few years and I am very pleased to see his progression in the industry.  We did not see eye to eye on a few things early on but with what he has been able to do and accomplish over the last couple of years has been amazing.

He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule and do this interview so here we go.

Hi there Brandon – we go back a few years to the Carloan.com days but please tell us something about yourself and how you got your start in this industry?

I was 17 years old when I started in this industry and right out of high school. I got lucky and met the right people at the right time. My good friends at Affiliate.com and Get Ads, which used to be Opt In Real Big, taught me how to sell CPM Email and I never looked back! Ten years later and a few companies bought and sold, I have BMI Elite and Crush Ads. We have been operating for over 2 years have almost about 45 employees in two offices in Florida.

Tell me something new and exciting about CrushAds and your role specifically.

Crush Ads is making a big push into the pay per call arena. We just launched a software in January that will allow us to manage large scale campaigns. This is something we have the entire team excited about.

As CEO, I have my hands in every aspect of the business. I am constantly working on building relationships with our advertiser and publisher base, marketing efforts to continue growth, and most importantly working with the best accounting team to make sure that our pubs are getting paid and our advertisers are paying on time! We have also recently opened a division to drive more internal traffic, so I have been putting a lot of focus into growing that side of the business as well.

How is what you are doing different from the other affiliate networks?

Our #1 priority is customer service. We want that to set us apart from the pack. We like to think of ourselves as a publisher agency that goes above and beyond what a typical network does by doing things like helping our publishers build out their pages, developing custom creatives and being an outsourced sales team. We have an agency division that offers these same services to our advertisers, so it was only natural for us to open these resources up to our publishers as well.

In addition to those points, Crush Ads audits stats every week and adds in untracked sales to ensure that our publishers are getting paid on all of their conversions, even the ones where the pixel misfires. Last but not least, we are direct on over 90% of our offers and we put a lot of effort forth in maintaining this. We feel that the most important thing we can do is operate our business in a way that it is apparent to all that we are here for the long term and we want to be their partner, not just “another network.”

What decisions have you made in your career that you look back on feel were mistakes? What have you learned from them that specifically have helped in getting CrushAds where it currently is? 

Hmmmm mistakes… I don’t regret any mistakes that I have made, as I make sure that I learn from everything that I do. Everyone makes mistakes and if you think you don’t you are definitely misguided. Some of my biggest mistakes have been hiring the wrong people and investing time and resources into them with no real return on investment. It took 10 plus years, but right now I feel like I have built a DREAM TEAM. We have the right people in place and are really starting to take things to the next level!  Call me the Pat Riley, of the internet when it comes to building a solid team

Can you talk a bit about what CrushAds is doing specifically to combat fraud and more importantly is there something being done on a grander scale collectively to rid the industry of that? 

Crush Ads has a strict No Fraud Tolerance policy and we screen every publisher closely before allowing them access to our campaigns. We always prefer new publishers that come in as a referral from one of our current partners and honestly most of our current publishers have been referrals. If a publisher makes it past the screening process and we confirm they are sending fraud traffic their account is immediately terminated from the network and not just the campaign. Internally we monitor click data on a daily basis; we also work very closely with our advertisers to get as much feedback as possible on new publishers.  Last, but not least, we are currently doing demos on various fraud monitoring solutions and plan to implement one in the next few weeks. We feel this is going to be an integral part of expanding into the next phase and limiting the exposure that we have when working with new publishers.

As a whole the industry is pushing itself into a more transparent arena with groups like Super Affiliates and Shady Affiliates on Facebook. The more networks that participate in groups like this, the harder it will be for these fraudsters to jump from network to network. I also feel that in cases where there are large sums of money involved that the industry should consider, as a whole, taking things to the next level and getting the authorities involved. If fraudsters knew there would be stricter penalties to deal with as a result of their actions they may think twice about defrauding the networks and advertisers. Fraud traffic is causing more harm to our industry than anything else.

What is your take on the whole issue with the Copeac shutting its doors? 

They played with fire and they got burned. It’s simple; they pushed the line far enough that the FTC felt that needed to get involved in a big way. Operating like that may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but now they are left with a huge mess and a tarnished reputation. The most important thing you need to do is pay your publishers. They pay for their media out of their pockets and I feel that is the biggest responsibility a network has. When things get to the point where you aren’t paying publishers, you need to stop asking them for more traffic.

Right now we feel the time is right for a few new networks to become big players. If these networks learn from the mistakes of the previous networks, they actually stand a chance of being here 10 years from now. It’s not about the dollar you can make today, if you are going to lose out on thousands of dollars over the foreseeable future. The networks that were “big” 2 years ago aren’t here anymore and it’s making room for the new ones. Copeac is gone. Market Leverage is essentially gone. Azoogle is having issues. All of this adds up to a lot of publishers needing solid and reputable networks to send their traffic to and we feel that Crush Ads fits that description.

What are some trends you are seeing in the space and what is CrushAds doing to put itself out in front?

2012 is all about pay per call and mobile marketing. We are working hard to enter both spaces in a big way by the end of the year. We are also developing internal offers and brining on a lot of offers that we are the Agency of Record on. The larger publishers are focusing more on working with direct advertisers and by providing them with offers that we own or are exclusive to us, we are giving them access to work direct with the advertiser. Doing this gives us a lot more freedom to try things outside of the box.  Some of these things bomb but the ones that work end up making our publishers a lot of money.

Who are some of the networks and or industry leaders you hold in high regard?

Industry leads, that’s a tough one! I have a lot of respect for many members of our industry. Evan Weber and Pace are some of the people that I go to for guidance. They have been in the business a long time and experienced a lot of different things from a lot of different angles. I have high regard for what George and Pat have built at Get Ads in such a short amount of time. The people that I respect the most in this business are the ones that build solid communities around their brands and of course pay their bills!

What advice would you like to give the newer publishers who are looking to get started in the industry? There are so many choices out there – what should they be asking or looking for in a network that would make their decision process easier?

New publishers need to have the capital to test and test again. They also need to be ready to fully capitalize on an opportunity once they find success.
When deciding what network to work with they should look at a few things:

1) What are other publishers saying about this network? – Check out the Facebook groups and forums. There is a lot of feedback out there. If you don’t find what you are looking for, don’t be shy and ask other publishers for their experiences.

2) How experienced is the management team? – Crush Ads is comparatively new, but our upper management each have 10+ years of experience. It’s important to work with people that know what they are doing and aren’t just in this business to make a quick buck and bounce to the next thing.

3) How fast will you get paid? – This is especially important when you are working with traffic sources that require publishers to prepay. The faster you get paid the quicker you can scale campaigns.

What takeaway should my readers have from this interview – is there something specific you care to share? 

Crush Ads is here to stay. We want to work closely with select partners to maximize the opportunities available both on the publisher and advertiser side. If you aren’t happy with your current network or are just looking to expand, we would love the opportunity to talk to you and see how Crush Ads can fit into your plan!

One more thing before I let you go, CrushAds is running a big contest this year to send someone to the 2013 Superbowl!!  Check out http://www.2012mvps.com/ for more info!!!

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About the Author

Ricky

Ricky Ahuja is the serving as the VP of Marketing for ClickSyndicate.com and provides strategic corporate and functional marketing consulting services to early stage companies.

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