Edward Austin plays the digital marketing game with the right mix of calculated risk and unflinching confidence. As the media buying manager for Flirt4Free, he knows that online advertising is the true gold mine these days, with more and more adult industry sectors getting pulled into the complex world wide web.
With a keen eye on ROI, he plans out his approach and makes adjustments along the way, assigning values to a variety of factors like traffic quality and geos. Austin also watches the competition closely, to ensure Flirt4Free seizes every profitable media buying opportunity.
We are always watching what the models and the broadcasting team have planned for the month. A lot of times we will create specialized campaigns around what’s happening.
He recognizes that this biz is all about territory, with the intangible value of branding no less critical to long-term success than the measurable cha-ching of cold hard cash flowing in. Working closely with the analytics, design and dev teams, Austin is always pushing to innovate and evolve.
To sketch a blueprint of the media buying architecture he finesses on a daily basis, XBIZ sat down with one of Flirt4Free’s major players, for this exclusive interview.
XBIZ: Tell us about your professional background and what led you to join the Flirt4Free team.
AUSTIN: I got into digital marketing several years ago, when I worked for a big advertising firm in mainstream. I worked on two accounts — one was for a large oil company and the other was for a large retailer that had stores in the southeastern part of the U.S. Back then, many of the clients didn’t really care about digital marketing, but they knew it was something that would grow. So, everyone on the team managed the TV, radio, billboard and online advertising needs.
After that job ended, I wound up at a big entertainment studio for a few months, working on advertising for DVD releases. Online advertising became the most effective way of reaching customers. I think that is when I started to like the entertainment industry and adult entertainment is just another form of entertainment, but only for adults.
When I went in for the interview for the position at Flirt4Free, it was very tough. I came in with a branding background, compared to direct response. I let them know that I could adapt quickly, and the rest is history.
XBIZ: Describe your role at F4F and how it has evolved since your earliest days at the company.
AUSTIN: As the media buying manager, I’m responsible for tasking on the risk of getting a good return on our investment in traffic. In the early days, there was not much of a media buying team there. I had a person that was my manager and then there was me doing all the buying. Now, I have a team and we are growing rapidly. Also, my responsibility is not just buying anymore. Sometimes, it consists of selling traffic, as well as being an affiliate of other programs.
Media buying and selling is now a big and growing part of the adult industry. There’s still no award for best media buyer like there is for affiliate rep, but hopefully someone with make that a category at an awards show. Maybe XBIZ will!
XBIZ: What is your approach to media buying, as far as negotiating prices and purchasing the right audience-targeted time and advertising space?
AUSTIN: My approach is that I like to be open to any and every offer that comes through. There are many factors that come into play when buying ad space such as ad types, geos, volume and more. One of the most important factors is the quality of the traffic to the site. You must know if a site is getting organic traffic or if they are buying referral traffic from other sites. That may be different when looking to buy member area traffic.
Geos is another important factor. You must know the geos you do well in, and assign a value to those geos, and that will determine the value of the sites. The first thing anyone should do is research the information yourself and you can also ask the seller for that information as well. There are some great tools out there that will give you some good insights as to what’s happening on the site.
We work with a lot of networks and brokers. There are sites that come along that are a must buy right away and sometimes you get sites that are overpriced. After being in the industry for a while you know that either some other media buyer will buy it and then it will be back on the market soon, because they couldn’t get a good return at that price, or it will be passed around from seller to seller and if that happens, then the price will start to drop the longer no one buys it. Sometimes being patient is important, but you must know when.
XBIZ: How do you partner with other members of the F4F crew to achieve the best results?
AUSTIN: I’m always working with the design team and the dev team to innovate. Creating new ads is a must. You can never sit still or not think creatively. If you do that, you will fall behind quickly. Digital marketing is a fast-paced, evolving “game.” Sometimes you must build custom ads for certain sites to get their user’s attention.
We are always watching what the models and the broadcasting team have planned for the month. A lot of times we will create specialized campaigns around what’s happening. We like to make sure we are keeping the models happy with good traffic.
XBIZ: Walk us through your process for assessing ROI and how you decide whether to pivot or stay the course.
AUSTIN: The math equation for this is very long and involves many variables. ROI sometimes can be very hard to calculate when it comes to the cams market. If we were a subscription style platform, it would be a lot easier. Customers can spend an unlimited amount of money on the site at any time. Luckily for us, we have a computer generating system that looks at past spending trends, customer values and other factors that helps us calculate the amount of time it will take us to be profitable. Those numbers change day by day, but most of the time, the profitability goes up.
A lot of times I make gut calls on unprofitable campaigns I see potential in. The team and I will monitor users as they make their way through our sales funnel. Sometimes we get a lot of users adding credit cards but not spending. Many times, I will keep those campaigns going and after a few months it creates a snowball effect. Those users start spending like crazy, then next thing you know, what was unprofitable in the previous month becomes profitable. It’s amazing to watch.
XBIZ: What kind of media research planning do you perform, to ensure Flirt4Free stays ahead of the curve?
AUSTIN: I’m always on our various research tools looking for sites with good traffic every day. The team and I are always reaching out to publishers and ad networks looking for information as well. The best data comes from testing sometimes. You should always start with a small test and if the company has an insertion order, then make sure it comes with an “out clause.”
Competitive analyses offer very important pieces of information. We like to see who’s sliding up and down, when they’re busy and what creatives they are running. We are always looking at the traffic volumes of each competitor each month. This gives us a little insight about the changes in their media buying strategy, what traffic opportunities could become available and what traffic they may want to take away from us. Everyone wants to move on someone’s territory.
XBIZ: Talk about which mediums — print, digital, trade shows, etc. — seem to work best for elevating the Flirt4Free brand.
AUSTIN: I think they are good in their own way, but for us digital is always the best because we have the platform to track that information right away. Print and trade shows are always good for visibility. I think being visible on various media outlets is a very important branding tool for customers and for potential partners as well. All these mediums create a good synergy when used effectively together.
XBIZ: What’s on the horizon for Flirt4Free?
AUSTIN: There are a lot of things on the horizon from Flirt4Free in general. But some of the things that we are doing in the media buying department is we are looking to help our direct publishers more. There was a lot of confusion when the Google Chrome update happened. Many of the publishers got a little scared when they got that warning from Google.
We want to let them know that we have some solutions that can help make their user experience better, while helping them to generate income on their ad space. There will probably be more updates coming, so we will do our best to stay on top of it and help in any way we can.
We are also working with the development team to make ads smarter and more efficient when a user hits an ad. We’ve been working with our analytics team to crunch the data and create parameters around what will convert customers better. Aside from that, we are going to continue to increase our traffic buys and increase our market share.