Marcos Oliveira, Clever Advertising: Affiliates must keep clients in mind rather than ‘cherry-pick’ US states

Marcos Oliveira (Image source: Clever Advertising)

Working in the US is not a new thing for Clever Advertising but expansion of the market is the novelty, said CCO Marcos Oliveira.

In an exclusive interview ahead of this week’s SBC Summit North America, he opened up on the ‘ongoing process’ towards reaching higher growth in the US and why he is targeting several affiliate licenses by the end of 2022.

We also discussed the merits of ‘cherry-picking’ the best states to enter from a regulatory perspective, with Oliveira concluding that servicing clients remains the key business value since they will “count on us to perform” in any given state they themselves are entering. 

SBCA: How are you positioning yourself for the US market? What can you learn from what others have done right or wrong so far?

MO: We got the New Jersey license when it was initially issued, but for media buyers’ businesses like us, it was difficult to monetize traffic when it is set to one state alone. So we broadened the strategy and decided to obtain licenses in other states – it is an ongoing process and we expect a great 2022 in the US market.

Right or wrong is an abstract concept for us, you know. What is right for one person might not be right for someone else. What we can say is that trailblazers are the ones that encounter more difficulties and hurdles to overcome but, normally, are also the ones that get the advantage and get ahead of the competition.

For Clever, competition is not seen as an obstacle because we are mature enough to know the hoops and loops of licensing processes and we have a track record of performance to understand if what we have been doing is set to reach higher growth. We are certain that we are on the right path.

SBCA: In a previous interview, you said that Clever places 80% of its attention on market research; how difficult is that in the US with so many different rules on a state-by-state basis?

MO: The United States has a historic background in the gambling industry and the regulators have deep knowledge of it, mostly based on the brick-and-mortar business. So for them, it is easier to present a solid regulation, mirroring it to the online business.

If one sees the United States as a big licensing process, one could get lost in it and perceive it as a difficult market to enter, but that is not how we are acting in the United States.

You see, due to our market research dedication, we understand that each state has its own DNA, own set of rules, unique demography and particular cultural behavior. Taking those insights into account, we are approaching each state as if it was an independent country and this perspective allows us to maintain a steady and firm course of action.

SBCA: With that in mind, do you even consider it as entering the US? Or is it rather that you are cherry-picking states that best align with your business?

MO: The United States market is not new for us, the expansion of it is the novelty. As stated, we already have a New Jersey license and we are currently in the process of being licensed in several other states. Cherry-picking is a smart, performance-oriented strategy, and we do have it considered in the business plan, but we have a key aspect of our core business values that is undisputed and undoubtedly one of the most important ones for us: our clients. 

Meaning that if our partners are getting licensed in a particular state, they will count on us to perform in the said state, so we take that into account and we pick those states as the primary ones when it comes to licensing. 

Having said that, our strategy at Clever is to be licensed in several states by the end of 2022, starting with the ones where our clients are set, then proceeding to licensing in the least bureaucratic states, before ending with those where the process is the most time-consuming.

SBCA: The majority of your deals are completed on a revenue share basis; are you interested, then, in US states where only CPA licenses are permitted?

MO: The United States law is not lenient to affiliates, they ensure that affiliates who want to work on revenue share model must comply with the same legal process as an operator. 

That is not necessarily bad, Clever is a keen supporter of regulation that aims to make affiliates more compliant, but is time-consuming and our partners need us to be up and running. What we are doing is applying to the CPA model licensing and then, after being implemented in the market, we will apply for revenue share licenses.

SBCA: And finally, what can the US market learn from how the affiliate market has matured in Europe?

MO: What we have seen so far, and we are not the best ones to comment on this because we did not lead entry to the market, is that the United States is a bit far behind regarding technical and affiliate relationships as well as market development, but they are far ahead when concerning product, consumer and gaming culture.