Interview on a new reality, new role, new network and new opportunities.
TwinRed CEO, Peter Rabenseifner, interviewed over Skype by Roman Seet from Affpeople.
Hey Peter, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Let me begin by asking you what are your current responsibilities?
My pleasure, Roman. In October last year I took over the ad-network Double Impact, which meanwhile we improved and rebranded to TwinRed, as a CEO.
May we briefly touch the reasons behind your decision to leave Traffic Stars and join TwinRed?
My long-term vision with TrafficStars was different to the vision of the shareholders, so we decided to move on in different paths.
As the CEO did you have to re- build everything from scratch?
With Double Impact I took over a company with lots of potential and strong technology, so not everything had to be rebuilt but rather improved. We restructured the company, introduced effective processes, hired great talent and rebranded the network to what gives us the basis to be the solid, modern company we are right now, TwinRed.
That is now your first role as a CEO. What are the first things you do when you step into a new company?
It is in fact my second role as CEO, after TrafficStars. The foundation of every company are the people, so my first step was to travel across all offices in Budapest, Luxembourg (where our company group is based) and Los Angeles to meet everyone in person and have as many personal conversations with the people who built this network as possible. Only after carefully taking into account all the feedback I started preparing a strategy that will bring long-term success to TwinRed.
Tell me a bit about TwinRed.
TwinRed is an adult ad-network with self-serve and open RTB capabilities. We manage traffic from popunder, interstitial, banner- and video ad spots at the moment and are planning to launch native ads and push very soon.
We currently are around 35 people across 3 offices: management and sales in Barcelona, IT and finance in Los Angeles and another IT team in Budapest.
Our mission is to be the ad-network of the industry that is known for solid technology, quality traffic and efficient support.
It was previously called Double Impact. So as a new company what do you inherit from Double Impact?
I strongly believe that as a human being it’s important to always remember where you come from, equally important are these roots for a company.
We still operate on the same technology, kept employees with us that have been with the company since 10 or more years and still partly operate from the Los Angeles office where it all began.
The industry matured significantly over the past 10 years and we wanted to reflect that in a future proof company name and brand which also inherited a part from our past. The TWIN part in our name comes from our previous ‘DOUBLE’ name.
What is improved and different in the new version of the network?
As I said the technology is strong and solid but in such a fast paced industry you need constant innovation and improvements to it which is what we are doing. An indicator of our technology focus is also the fact that the biggest team in our network is the IT team and we have very ambitious plans and visions for the future.
I also mentioned processes before which is why we are much more efficient now in reacting to requests from our partners but also in handling internal matters.
Previously the company was a popunder network which has already changed. These days we monetize a lot of banner inventory, big volumes of video pre-rolls, interstitials (our new format to overcome the Google ban on popunders), besides the popunders.
Last but not least we brought in a lot of talent. Starting up the sales office in Barcelona from scratch gave us the possibility to hire exactly the type of people we need to achieve our ambitious goals. In a short time we managed to attract a great combination of industry veterans and hungry juniors.
Why have you decided to re-brand at all?
Part of it was explained with my previous comments about the industry having matured but also it is important that a brand goes hand in hand with the mission and vision of a company as well as with the people who run it.
Before starting to work on the new brand we held a workshop to define our company values. Who are we, what do we stand for and what are we looking to achieve? Only after our values were defined, we moved on to find our new name, after that the design. That was a very exciting project and I am more than happy with the outcome.
I read that you are connected to LiveJasmin. Can you explain to me the nature of this connection?
We are affiliated to LiveJasmin on a corporate level and they are a strategic partner for us. It is always good to have a strong partner by your side but at the same time our focus is on growing the network in general. We work with all kinds of advertisers and affiliates, even if their product is in direct competition with LiveJasmin. We are an independent ad-network.
I read that days of popunders in Chrome are counted. But I also heard it before. Many times in fact. Can you explain to me what is happening?
We expected this since many years meanwhile. Google went on a hunt, it seems especially in the adult area, to flag publishers who triggered popunders on their site.
Is that true that the biggest adult websites in the world have already ceased to serve popunders?
Indeed, we are talking about some of the biggest websites in the world that were impacted by this. It actually seems that Google went after the big sites first and foremost as a way to state their policy, and we are confident that sooner or later all publishers will have to deal with this matter.
What are the consequences of not abiding to Google rules?
Google has the ability to ban all advertising spots from a website. Usually what happens is that if a site fails the google review a second time, the ads on the site or the opening of new links get blocked for 24 hours or more which is a disaster for webmasters.
Do popunders contribute to a large part of a web-site revenue? How would you estimate that?
We spoke about that in our latest blog post as well. According to our stats, backed up by wikipedia, the traffic of a website can contain up to 70% Chrome traffic which means the impact is huge.
Is that possible to go around those restrictions?
Since we always had a big focus in monetizing popunder traffic we were probably the first to look for alternatives but we considered all of the attempts to go around the restrictions to be short-term solutions only.
If we talk numbers here, approximately of course, can you give me an idea of how much money a top-5 adult website can lose monthly because of popunders?
I won’t get into financials of clients but to give you an indicator, we are talking about 5 digit numbers of US Dollars per day in advertising revenues for the biggest sites.
I saw you launched a new format as the alternative to pops. It’s called Interstitial Ads. How is that similar?
Our full page interstitial solution is pretty much the only way to substitute the popunder ban on Chrome. It shows the interactive landing page of the advertiser after the user clicks on a link, before being directed to the desired content page.
What is the logic behind it?
Our full page interstitials appear between web pages during navigation from one page to another and are triggered by user clicks. They are embedded into the user experience of a website. They are very effective and provide a high click-through rate. An interstitial ad page uses the same creative as a popunder and is therefore easy to get started with. It can have a countdown but it is mandatory to provide a dismissal button immediately.
You have definitely already run some tests internally. Can you share with us what you have seen? How do users respond to the new format?
Our clients are very happy with the solution we provided. Our advertisers are happy with the performance and conversion rates and as a consequence our publishers are satisfied with the revenues generated.
Do you believe that Interstitial Ads could be replacing popunders totally in the coming years?
I believe so, yes. On the short- and mid-term at least. However I can assure you that not a day goes by on which we don’t discuss new ad-formats and innovative ways to improve online advertising for our clients.
I also encourage everyone who reads this to run ideas past us if you like to share. We are always open to suggestions and opportunities.
You know that we can’t avoid this topic, do you?
I was surprised you waited so long to come up with it. Seriously speaking it is of course a topic that concerns all of us and I believe that we can all learn from each other in how to best deal with this situation.
Tell me how do you manage your team remotely?
We are in the fortunate situation to work in an industry and with a business model that allows us to work remotely. We switched to home-office already before the official announcement came out and it turned out to work very well.
I believe that communication is key during these days. We communicate a lot via slack but also see each other in video conferences. We have stand-up meetings together to quickly discuss short-term goals and results, all our 1-1 meetings work out well and we even work out together with a fitness coach twice a week over Skype.
What software and services do you utilize to make the workflow smooth?
Just to name a few, we are using Slack, Skype, Teams, Jira, Freshdesk, …
Do you think it is realistic to run a network 100% remotely?
I think it is possible, however my philosophy is still that nothing is better than working face to face, since positive energy in an office can have a big impact on the results. I learned though that giving people the freedom of working from home sometimes is a good option.
Give advice to those executives who are also facing social distancing reality?
First and foremost the mindset is: The show must go on. We still keep recruiting for example, even if we have to train people remotely which is difficult but we made it work. We follow the same goals and we try everything to keep up the positive energy.
I would again point at communication. Speak to your people more than ever.
How did your work change during quarantine?
To be honest I don’t notice much of a change. I feel I have a bit more time to focus since you don’t have these constant chats with colleagues but apart from that I would say I even have the same meeting ratio and working hours as before.
I believe in our industry we are able to avoid mass layoffs. Do you agree with me?
I agree, however if the entire world economy gets affected, everyone will feel it.
Lastly COVID and its impact on the business.
Since more people than ever are at home and spend more time in front of their digital devices, traffic grew during the past weeks and we also see great performance of cam-, dating-, VOD and games offers. Also we must not underestimate the ban on sports events. The entire sports betting business went down and their users are ready to spend money and are looking for alternatives. Another great opportunity.
Is revenue increasing alongside? In other words are we able to sell all traffic?
Yes we noticed a stable increase of volume and revenue. We always sell 100% of the traffic we manage but since it´s bidding – everyone is welcome to join us and get a part of it.
Negative impact of COVID that you have already noticed?
Some products that require call-centers for their sales showed some slight drops and as I mentioned the sports betting industry got hit pretty hard.
Lastly – how do we make more money together in this new reality we all now live in?
I believe that we move towards an era in which quality of content will become much more important. Products with limited value to the users already started to decline for various reasons and I am certain that this trend will continue.
Apart from that, please create your TwinRed account right away and we will do everything to help you to be even more successful with your media buying or traffic monetisation efforts.
Thank you for your time, Peter.
Thank you, Roman.