Welcome to the Affiliate BI podcast. Today, we're speaking with Clemence Dujardin. She is the Group CEO of MyAffiliates and has extensive background in iGaming and affiliate marketing.

I always enjoy chatting with Clemence because she's got a lot of insight and I'm very happy to have you on the show. 

Thank you, John. I'm really, really happy to be here. 

So let's get started by talking about what your story is about how you ended up in the B2B space that led you to become the CEO of MyAffiliates.

Goodness, it's a long story. It's a very long story. I started in the iGaming industry a bit more than 15-17 years ago. And I started in a poker company. I knew nothing about iGaming, you know. I was in Malta, I worked in tourism, and worked for a government entity. And I said, okay, I need to change my career.

I need to find something new. So there I go. And I applied for a job. It was an online poker. It used to target the States at the time running on micro gaming. And I started that support, right? Because that's where you start and when you know nothing and at the time, not many people knew anything.

So that's where we all started from. And I started there and I quickly enjoyed it because it was fun, dynamic. Things changed every day. I was learning a lot. So I stayed there for a year or so. And then the owner decided to pack up his bag and go back to wherever he came from with the money of the company or whatever.

So that was my first regular, at the time it happened, you know, it's still happened today, but it happens more at the time. So moved on to another company and again, lack of stability and things like it. I was growing up my son on my own at the time. So I said, okay. You know, this instability can't keep going, but I don't want to leave the industry.

And over the years I have been exposed to affiliate marketing because I have been an affiliate manager. And I said, okay, let me try to jump on the other side. Let me try to go on the software side of it. And that's where I worked. I was employed by NetRFA at the time, which is still on and still doing well.

And that's where I started in B2B. I started in B2B and then moved on to MyAffiliates. And the rest is history basically. 

And when you think about B2B, it kind of got a maybe a bad name of being boring to boring. When do you think everything started to change where people started to have interest in what you do, not only as a company but understanding that there's a lot of power behind the data?

Well, let's make it clear. There are still tight men in gray suits with the very polish shoes that are lingering around. It's not all men. There are still those people, but I think it started becoming less boring when people started understanding the power of data, making a decision based on data, on understanding where the markets were going there.

Also, when innovation came in, when automation came in. So there were a lot of things that started making our B2B business more fun because it's easier to sell a product. And the minute it's easier to sell a product because you are going and you can make predictions, then you become more relaxed.

Your mission, your message start changing. You address people in a different way. You're more fun on the outside for the outside world, so you start addressing your audience a bit differently. So I think that's when it started. 

Before jumping on this call we had a quick chat just talking about a lot of different things about industry nuances. And I wanted to ask what kind of pain points do you think operators experience in running their business and maybe share some insights where people have all the valuable tools at their hands, but they don't always make use of them, and they don't always make use of the data.

So I just want to know if you can share some insights as to why our industry maybe isn't as advanced as where it needs to be and what needs to change. 

I think there are, there are actors in the industry that are very advanced and others that have thought over the years that throwing money at problems are problems, and I think this is what we were discussing a little bit before, right? Is that if you need traffic, you're going to throw millions of thousands to campaigns that are going to generate nothing but clicks and are not going to convert. Now, if people don't ask themselves the questions, why am I spending so much money and not converting anything? Then there is a problem.

People by now should have been educated, right? And with tools like ours, like yours, like others, they have the visibility, they have the knowledge in their hand, the power in their hand. So it is very difficult to say why it's happening. I think competition is fierce, and entering new markets in particular is very, very difficult. And there is the pressure of always being at the top, which is not always easy. And you have the companies that rather than thinking with data, looking at what they're doing and say, okay, this is where we invested, we didn't make that much money, we need to change this and this. They just keep throwing money at the problem, which we know doesn't work. 

Do you think things are going to change where throwing money at the problem is not just going to be normal? Where there's a lot of casinos or online gambling operations, or even affiliates that just by existing, they make money. But do you think there's going to be a big separation where, because the more advanced companies are using data, using tools, do you think this is going to be a change where the status quo is not going to be what we've always known it to be?

Well, I would say I was hoping for that, right? But we didn't, with the U.S. markets, I've been slapped in the face because actually the U. S. market should have learned from everything that's happened over the last 20 years. Right and they should have known that there were skilled people and people that understood online gaming and how to run marketing campaigns and how to do this and the other. And they should have gone and talked to this knowledge of the people what we've seen so far.

What I've analyzed so far of the US market is that yes, it's a giant market. Not many people understand much about it. A lot of money has been spent, you know, and there are a lot of major acquisitions because they're trying to pick up each other from losing every penny they have invested so far apart for two or three. Okay, so I was hoping that globally it would, but I'm not completely convinced. You know, that it's actually happening. 

I agree. I think it feels like we've taken a step back where we thought it was obvious, like, I think from our experience in the industry, we just felt like you wouldn't do this, but it did happen. So I think you're right. It's kind of a weird insight that we've taken a couple of steps back, but I think at the end of the day, with the mergers and acquisitions that kind of finds a way to fix all problems. Does it? Maybe we'll get into that. 

That's another question coming up very soon, but I want to go into talking about affiliate programs that like going back into the problem of people not looking at their data. What are some of the ways you think a program could improve their conversion rate? And what do you think the operators should do to try to just basically not just get more affiliates to solve a problem, but look at their current data and go, you know what, there are ways of solving this? Maybe they just don't have the ability to compare themselves versus other operators. 

I think there is always the problem of not being able to understand what and how the competition is doing brilliantly, right?

You can't get that inside data. So it's always very difficult to know how you're doing compared to the others at the company level. So athletes have the luxury and the benefits of having that information because they know. You know that on an operator, this campaign works, but on the other one, it doesn't. So they have a much better insight than operators have. Now, how do we make that information circulate? Is there an interest for athletes to actually circulate that information? I don't know now. Operators have a major problem, I think. And I think that within the affiliate marketing team, there is a knowledge issue.

There 10 years ago have gone, have taken more responsibilities of taking different positions. And right now there is a struggle of finding people that understand the business. We haven't done much about it because there are courses here and there, they are online, but there is nothing in depth.

There is nothing that is actually focusing on how we make an affiliate manager being a profession rather than something that you learn on an eight hour course, and because that's not the way it works. So operators have problems and I feel it's going to get a little bit worse before it gets better, before these new affiliate managers actually understand the data that understand that everything is there at their fingertips.

They just need to look at it and say, okay, and they also need to communicate more with their affiliates. Very often I feel that it's a bit of a battle. It's affiliate manager against affiliates and there is always that trust issue where one thinks that they are going to steal the other one and that trust isn't there.

After all these years, we haven't managed to sit down all together, open the book and discuss all these open issues. And I think that the only thing that needs to happen is actually trust and exchange of information, so that everybody gains from it and everybody learns and makes more money, making their operations much easier.

But how do we get to that? That's a very good question.

Yeah. I know we've had some of these chats at conferences talking about what needs to change. And I think not to pick on the entire affiliate management community, but I think you're right. There are some great courses out there, but they're only, like you said, up to eight hours.

And I think no one goes to school for affiliate management. You don't really have a path. And I'm not even sure if there's too many communities that support affiliate management. And I think I think you're right. It's probably going to get worse before it gets better. Because what I see on the ground of having like 2, 000 affiliate accounts is they're more focused on sales than they are trying to build a relationship. And even when we had our sites, which we sold recently, affiliate managers would approach us and it's the same mindset. I want the number one spot, but they don't use data. They don't know how to use tools like Ahrefs or similar web, or maybe even deep CI to analyze.

Like maybe there's other parts of our website and our traffic that would actually be more beneficial for them to ask for. And to ask for it, you need to build a relationship. And it's just all these things that are thrown out the window. Relationship building plus knowing what to actually look for.

So let's talk into mergers and acquisitions. So recently in the iGaming space, we had Better Collective acquire Playmaker for I think it was 176 million euros. And GiG acquired KaFe Rocks for 35 million. Do you think the big affiliates are only going to get bigger? I'll leave it at that question and I've got two more follow ups. 

Yes, big affiliates are only going to get bigger. And I think it's a bit part of a natural cycle, right? It's how organizations go and it's by buying others that are doing well so that they can generate more cash. So yes, and it's also part of the cycle of the strengthening of the industry.

We saw this with operators. We're still seeing it with operators to a certain level. And we saw that with Catena Media. Catena was one of the ones that started this measure of an acquisition of affiliate sites. And I think the model to a certain point has proved successful until they decided to go elsewhere and break this business, business in a way, but it was a successful business model and I think they did quite well with it. 

So a second part to follow up on kind of the same theme is how do smaller affiliates compete and do you think all this consolidation hurts some of the operators in the sense that if they have less pool of affiliates to deal with and it's the bigger ones, the assumption is that the bigger affiliates the margins get smaller because they're commanding larger commission deals like higher rev share, higher CPA or higher flat fee, higher flat fees.

I personally can't say how, if it continues like this, small affiliates can keep competing. If you look at the landscape, the regulation, the competition, the constant demand of more, more and more plus the heat, small affiliates take as much as big affiliates when operators close down, don't get paid, money vanishes. There is so much this small affiliate can take, and I don't think it's being very easy on them.

But is it the law of the jungle? Is it the way it works in any industry? Is that, if you're small and you have the power and the guts and the will to make whatever you're creating better and bigger, then you're going to be up there. But then if you just want to do this, just like this, then you're going to remain as you are.

You know, I don't think it's particular to our industry. It's everywhere. You're always going to have industry leaders and you're always going to have these little companies that stay there, that are happy, that are living with what they want, you know, that living with what they're making, but that's it.

Yeah. I think it's that situation of, you know, gone are the days when you could just create an affiliate site rank without even trying. I think you got to put more effort into it. And I think it's kind of what we expect it's you got to put in a quality effort if you want to have a chance at being an affiliate rather than maybe 15, 20 years ago. I remember being an affiliate manager and just seeing these accounts and being like, I could create that same absolutely WordPress website, this is way too easy.

Yeah. I mean, now it is investment, right? You need to invest from the get go. You need to invest in your SEO. You need to invest in your Google ads. You need to invest in your content. You need to invest in your own research to be there and understand it.

So, it's not anymore I have a website and put some links and if I'm lucky, I get four hits this month, make some pocket money, and I'm done. 

It doesn't happen like this anymore. So I want to talk about MyAffiliates and the growth it's had over the history of the company.

And it's been quite an impressive one where, just standing back as an affiliate, you see MyAffiliates everywhere. I'm just wondering if you're able to share what MyAffiliates is working on for 2024 and beyond.

Okay. So that's interesting because we want to share a lot, but we can't share much, right?

You know, you didn't always listen to that kind of thing. So anyone that has been working with the product has understood that we have invested a lot over the last past. Three to four years into moving from being a system which is affiliate centered to being a system that is player centered, right?

Because when the product was created 15 years ago we needed to know, or you needed to know, how much the affiliate was earning. Okay, and that's it. Now, how much the affiliate is earning is really the bottom line, but everyone needs to understand how the earning is becoming. So we need the people, operators need to understand the players, the player journey, the player's market. They need to understand also the difference in their channels. So where the traffic comes from, in which channels, because they also have a lot more to report in into jurisdiction, different taxes and so on and so forth. 

So we've invested a lot in that. So now what we're doing here, we're strengthening. So there are missing pieces that we're missing, and this is going to be probably close by the end of the year. And we're also going to focus on having a fit measure to be more independent of the system, so more automation, investing probably a bit more in AI probably, investing a little bit more in the front end itself.

So what affiliates are seeing and what they're able to do. So, we have a long journey ahead. We know where we're going. Unfortunately, I'd love to share my trailer board and tell you this is what you're going to see next year. 

I totally understand how it is. I mean, for what we do, we have a few competitors and we're considering being a what's the word? It's where you're a bit more building in public. So I don't think any affiliate software is brave enough to do building in public, but I think you've got too much fierce competition. 

Yes. I know. We wouldn't jump into it. I mean, I know we wouldn't, and because it's also because you raise expectations, right?

Very often when you start developing someone, something you plan, you have a timeline, but when you're building on code that is getting older and you also have to go and rebuild the older codes to build on top of something, those timelines run away. So the more expectation you give, then the more difficult it is to deal with the clients and the expectation or whatever.

So staying in the background and announcing things when they're out makes our life easier. That's, that's the truth.

So how do you think operators and affiliates could use AI to make better use of their data? Or is this another question that you don't want to answer because it also gives too much insight to what you're working on?

I think AI can help affiliates definitely on understanding much more that traffic, their own traffic, right? Very often affiliates have webpages they have links but it's a bit of a closed box. Understanding there are tools that are going to show you where the player came from or whatever, but you can actually start drawing player behaviors with all this so I think AI can be absolutely a tool.

I mean if you look at a sportsbook, and you have AI generated odds that can give you live odds on the spot, you know in the next five seconds, this is brilliant. It's something that is used and is going to be used more. What else? I'm identifying very high value players, and how do you target those players? How do you make them play? How do you cross sell them? How do you keep them? So, I think that AI is going to change our life because now you need to put many reports to put all that together. AI probably is going to, once you have put all these reports into your ChatGPT, it's going to split the answer for you.

So it's going to save you a long analysis process as well.

I think when you start looking at the different companies that exist on the sports betting side, it's easier for us to visualize what's happening. And I know companies that I follow in the iGaming space that I think are interesting that I know relate to data and AI will be able to be applied.

Our companies like Greco that help with bonus abuse. And there's another company, Golden Whale, which looks to see how they can optimize player values. So I think you're right that these are tools that maybe it's going to accelerate, this M&A growth and maybe it's going to accelerate the top companies getting even stronger.

Yeah, but there are simplest ways, right? I think I was speaking to a client here yesterday and he said can we use your manual and your FAQ to upload it in our ChatGPT so that our own support people stop asking us questions? But actually ask ChatGPT and we feed that information.

So even in terms of support, our support is going to become better and more efficient. And when you have a business like ours that doesn't necessarily have a support agent after 10 o'clock in the evening, but you have a Brazilian client that still has a question, if you have this kind of tool, the client is still going to be saved to a certain extent without needing a human. There will always be the need of a human at the end, but it bridges a lot of gaps that right now we're not not bridging. 

Oh, that makes sense. I'm hearing these discussions with companies like Intercom where they're looking to build just a smarter ChatGPT powered type of customer support as just one of many things we can do.

What do you see as the future of affiliate marketing as it intersects with business intelligence? 

It has always been intersecting, right? As long as I can remember, or maybe not as long as I can remember, there are two industries that complement each other, and affiliate marketing cannot happen without business intelligence and business intelligence cannot, can live without affiliate marketing, but not in this sector.

I mean, we do different things. Of course we drive as marketing software to give more business intelligence and we will always strive to give more insight, but of course we have part of the cycle that is missing for us, right? Because we only get limited information about the players, for example.

So that needs to happen outside our system, but same for the operator. The operator has limited access to their own data and they need hours to be put into a BI system to actually live and give insightful information. So I think they're complimentary, and I think we need to invest more in BI, BI needs to speak to us more in terms of what are the needs so that actually the industry can keep growing with intelligence.

So if we're complaining that there isn't enough intelligence into the industry, and we were saying, it's only if we actually improve our tools by complimenting each other by speaking to each other and giving maybe, you know, what we're giving is not a simple, maybe we need to simplify it and collaborate more so that we actually give things that are obvious and in your face where it's easier to make decisions.

No, I agree. I think business intelligence has been touching everything for the last 20 years, if not longer, and it's always been an affiliate marketing, but I think the one reason why I wanted to do this podcast was to take these conversations that are happening at the conference and kind of bring them out where it's going to be on video and audio, but eventually it's going to be transcribed and hopefully discussions like this end up in the hands of those affiliate managers and those operators that need to look at their business in a different way and also the data.

Yeah, absolutely. Clemence, it was a pleasure chatting with you. I'm looking forward to seeing you next week in Malta. How can people get ahold of you? And tell us where they can get ahold of MyAffiliates as well.

I'm also looking forward to have you at dinner next week. I can't wait.

So to get in touch with us, sales at MyAffiliates.com. That's as easy as that and we have brilliant people that get in touch.

And we can include that information in the show notes, including maybe a couple of LinkedIn profiles and accounts. Clemence, thank you so much for doing this. 

Thank you, John. It was a pleasure.

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