Brian McLevis of Envyus Media is Seeing Green
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Brian McLevis of Envyus Media is Seeing Green

About a year ago I shaved my head. Since then everyone in the industry has decided that it was a really cool thing to do. However, Brian McLevis, the CEO of Envyus Media has been touting a bald head for a while, since he had that accident with the Gamma Ray Device. Not only did it make him bald, stronger than Rosie O’Donnell going after a piece of German Chocolate cake, but also turned him into an affiliate monster. Since then he’s opened his own Affiliate Network, EnvyusMedia which has been slowly building a name for itself.  We interviewed him this week and found him to be blunt, honest and to the point.

Q: You like to emphasize that Envyus has a very complex system of fraud prevention. Without going into details what makes your fraud prevention system good?
A: We’ve considered more or less every possible technical aspect imaginable while building our fraud analytical research system. Essentially, we capture and analyze every single click and conversion against all known and existing technical data points. There isn’t really one technical aspect that we would say, leave behind or not analyze completely. Ultimately, the system monitors the traffic in real time so if there’s anything sketchy, abnormal or out of the ordinary we can spot it immediately.

We really want to emphasize that this system isn’t just something that we hastily built and then decided to settle on mere initial functionality. It really exists akin to a living, breathing system that is constantly and knowledgeably evolving thanks to new patterns, trends and other sketchy activity we come across. We can currently say with unfaltering confidence that we don’t have any fraud of any kind occurring on the network. As you might expect, this makes for a much less stressful and ultimately more rewarding relationship with all of our advertisers. We can happily say that there exists a peace of mind for both our advertisers and our own in-house team. It makes sleep come much easier than it has in the past, that’s for sure!

In addition to all of this, since that was technically an explanation of our traffic monitoring backend system only, we also go to whatever extraordinary lengths are necessary with our new affiliate application sign-up. By this we mean that all technical aspects are checked just as rigidly as on the backend in order to ensure the applicant is indeed who they say they are.

Q: What is the biggest issue fraud-related in the performance marketing industry right now?
A: Well, let’s see – that’s an excellent question! I would say the biggest fraud related issue in the industry right now is that some networks simply don’t know how to properly manage fraudulent activity. You really see this with a lot of the newer networks since they come into the whole thing thinking it’s going to be a walk in the park and they ultimately receive a very unpleasant reality shock. New networks will always exist as large targets for fraudsters because these people prey upon the relative innocence and usually undermined resources of the new network team. Many of the new affiliate networks also broker offers from other networks and once fraudsters target the network, they pump the fraud for all it’s worth and the network doesn’t even know how to spot it. As such, the advertiser for the particular offer in question gets inundated with tons and tons of fraud traffic. It’s a damn shame.

When you take a step back and break everything down to its core parts, there’s just no way to prevent failure of any kind without adequate levels of risk management. Plain and simple! It’s just so frustrating to try and wrap your head around, really. How do you even survive for more than a few months without the technology, resources and necessary precautions in place? It’s absolutely asinine and is also directly related to the pathetically short turnover time for new affiliate networks. You can’t help those that can’t help themselves so there’s really no sense in getting too emotional about the whole thing.

Q: Why did you switch to Cake Marketing as your platform? What is so good about it?
A:  Well, if you’ve learned anything about us thus far than you can probably already guess that we demoed every single tracking system that was available on the market. In a perfect world, we wanted a robust admin side and a clean, streamlined, easy-on-the-eyes affiliate side of things. Since we have our own analytical fraud system in-house, we needed a company that was willing and able to work with us very tightly and in a very detailed overall integration process. When we first talked to CAKE and had a chance to demo their fine product, we were ridiculously impressed by the system because it was incredibly clean while also being extremely robust. The user interface all by itself is a work of art in our eyes – it’s very quick, very clean, very, very pleasing to the eye. And in addition to all of this, it’s also fully functional.

Even with the visual and technical aspects aside, the CAKE development and support team is hands-down one of the best we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and working with throughout the entire business. In a word, they’re just incredible. Not only do they listen to your needs, they also sincerely want to improve on anything that would ultimately give you a better product from their point of view. And as if all of this wasn’t enough, they’ve been just as fantastic in providing us with API’s that we need to integrate our fraud analytical system. Top marks all across the board!

Q: In 2011 what verticals do you see growing?
A: Hmm… well, I suppose I need to start off with lead generation (or lead-gen for short) as those offers just in general are growing and growing. We’ve talked to a vast multitude of different publishers who are also seeing more and more traffic in the overall lead-gen realm. Since the publisher themselves are not responsible for actually closing the deal, it’s very intriguing – very promising as well. They’re ultimately only responsible for generating the initial lead, which is arguably infinitely easier than getting a potential consumer to bust out their credit cards.

There’s a lot of buzz and talk about mobile offers but that’s likely to continue growing gradually throughout the year. It will develop slow and steady and ultimately be a major player in the endgame down the road into the future. As such, I don’t really see it skyrocketing this year as so many people have been predicting. It looks as if the development cycle for mobile will continue to increase and slowly gain momentum over the next three years or so as mobile technology continues to be harnessed and developed (think bandwidth limits finally getting pushed into the market as a whole).

Q: What types of offers do you seeing disappearing?  What type of offers would you like to see disappear?
A: Well, I think continuity offers are going to fade away, but not completely. I don’t think they can ever really fade away for good per se, but for smaller companies that don’t have access to 300 MIDs on their backend – well, they’re ultimately going to fall prey to charge-backs and other merchant accounts locking up completely. The continuity space overall is incredibly risky and, from a network stand point, you really need to know exactly who you’re working with. You also need to understand the backend workflow and how they manage the entire lifecycle of the product from start to finish. If you don’t do either of these things, or at least don’t have direct access to whoever you’re working with, then you’re strongly increasing the risk of becoming involved in working with a deadbeat advertiser.

There’s a ton of money to be made in the continuity space, but as with everywhere else where there’s profit, you need to learn how to do everything while combating your own conscience and greed. Some merchants and networks merely see the dollar signs and lose track of their overall path.

Think about it, you rack up a few hundred thousand dollars off an offer but the merchant’s bank account(s) freeze up completely the same day or the following day. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy…

Q: Is there any place for incentive-based marketing?  What type does work, how, and what are the problems about that part of that industry?
A: There’s obviously always going to be a place for incentive-based marketing if only because of certain business models that exist within the industry today. They’re practically built around it and money is flowing in and out of these companies like clockwork. As long as there’re business models that exist and are built around the entire concept of incentive offers, there will always be a place where they can be accessed, yes.

: Overall, incentive-based marketing is a completely different ballgame. When we first launched we ran some interactive offers on the network and found that to be a mistake – at least for us, rather. Since publishers will always try and bend the rules whenever and wherever they can, they start running incentive traffic on non-incentive offers. For this reason and this reason alone, we decided to remove any and all incentive offers from the network. And to be honest, I’d do it all over again if I had to. It’s definitely been worth saving on all that hassle and stress.

Q: What are key things that you look for in a new affiliate?
A: First and foremost we always want to try and make sure that the new affiliate is indeed who they say they are. We see so much identity theft in regards to applicants and it’s quite obvious that the fraudsters out there have a whole laundry list of stolen identities. Once we get past the part of verifying their identity, then we can try to figure out just how serious they are about making money online.

Some networks won’t give the newbie affiliates the time of day – mainly because they don’t see any reason to work with the less-profitable, asking-questions-all-damn-day guy. One of our network philosophies is that we aim to work with each and every person regardless of their experience and without discrimination – period. If you think about it, every single super affiliate in this industry started out as a newbie just like everyone else. To not try and establish and harvest new talent would be like a professional sports team forsaking the draft completely in favor of signing old veterans. It’s just a dumb philosophy overall.

Q: Honestly, why should an affiliate work with you? Aren’t all networks the same just brokering the same offers? Is there really a difference?
A: On one hand you can say that offers are offers and most affiliate networks do indeed have very similar offers. It’s common knowledge that some networks pay more than others and some networks have completely exclusive offers.

It’s almost become like a rinse-and-rewash cycle in regards to what new affiliate networks say when they first hit the ground running. Everyone claims to treat their affiliates the best, everyone claims to possess the best offers and highest payouts and everyone claims that they hold customer service above all else in their network philosophy. Just spin those three statements up with new adjectives and a noun or two and you’ve got yourself the script for what will be said for years to come.

Ultimately, we feel that the way we treat our affiliates and publishers will ultimately, somewhere down the line, have a direct reflection of said goodwill and kindness back upon us. You can go to the highest buildings in the most crowded cities around the world and spout off the most phonetically pleasing promises and claims as a network, but ultimately, all it’s going to get you is face time. While there are a lot of affiliate networks all throughout the industry, if you’re not getting face time just from existing as a network in this industry then you need to close up shop because you haven’t the first idea on how to market your company.

On this same token, we feel that treating all of our affiliates and publishers to the best of our ability, with all of the kindness and compassion we would want to receive in their steed is the way to go. We know from experience that doing this is the fastest route to real, loyal affiliates who will not only continue to run with us for the remainder of their careers, but will also go out of their way to let people know that Envyus Media is the place that you need to go if you wanted to be treated with dignity; if you want to be treated with respect and kindness and zeal regardless of how many years you have logged doing the damn thing. A full-on, loyal testimonial from an affiliate is a truly beautiful thing indeed!

Basically, when it’s all said and done, you need to review affiliate networks not by their words or overall affiliate list, but by their actions. By how they act and treat their affiliates when they don’t think that anyone is looking. This along with a network’s cadre of loyal affiliates, offer the truest representation of just how valued a particular network truly is.

Q: Do you pay affiliates even if you don’t get paid? Is the standard of affiliates not being paid when networks mess up good for the industry? Love some comments.
A: A networks relationship with a publisher is essentially just that – between the network and the publisher. The network is ultimately responsible for taking the risk involved in regards to working with merchants and as such, networks should show due diligence and manage relationships and contacts with merchants in the smartest way they know how. If the network doesn’t get paid then that should never, ever, EVER reflect upon whether or not a publisher is getting paid – unless of course there was fraudulent activity taking place…

Although it’s getting bigger all the while, this industry is still relatively small. If you want to start burning your publishers by not paying them then word is going to get out fast and you’re essentially going to be writing yourself a one-way ticket to bankruptcy for your network. All trust would be gone and you’d be screwed up-stream without a paddle. And that’s never a good thing.

Q: What is your dream car?
A: That’s a tough one… I think I’m going to have to go with a 1969 Chevy Camaro, built on an Art Morrison sub frame with four-link rear suspension. In the engine bay would sit a twin turbo LS7 motor (the same motor as the 2011 ZR1 Corvette) pumping out upwards of 1,000 horsepower. The car would be built in a way that would keep the stock look but also have a slight twist of “badass-ness” in regards to the motor and mechanicals.

It would have to have all of the most recent technology in regards to brakes, suspension, electronics and so on and so forth. There’s just something to be said for building your very own classic car because it’s not just something you can plop down six-figures on and drive it off the showroom floor. It’s an extension of yourself and allows you to let your creative side come out to play!

Q: What airline do you guys use and why?
A: Whatever deal we can land on Orbitz.com! =)

Envyus Media can be found here.

Find an automatic clickbank script here.

Pace Lattin resume

Q: You like to emphasize that Envyus has a very complex system of fraud prevention. Without going into details what makes your fraud prevention system good?

A: We’ve considered more or less every possible technical aspect imaginable while building our fraud analytical research system. Essentially, we capture and analyze every single click and conversion against all known and existing technical data points. There isn’t really one technical aspect that we would say, leave behind or not analyze completely. Ultimately, the system monitors the traffic in real time so if there’s anything sketchy, abnormal or out of the ordinary we can spot it immediately.

We really want to emphasize that this system isn’t just something that we hastily built and then decided to settle on mere initial functionality. It really exists akin to a living, breathing system that is constantly and knowledgeably evolving thanks to new patterns, trends and other sketchy activity we come across. We can currently say with unfaltering confidence that we don’t have any fraud of any kind occurring on the network. As you might expect, this makes for a much less stressful and ultimately more rewarding relationship with all of our advertisers. We can happily say that there exists a peace of mind for both our advertisers and our own in-house team. It makes sleep come much easier than it has in the past, that’s for sure!

In addition to all of this, since that was technically an explanation of our traffic monitoring backend system only, we also go to whatever extraordinary lengths are necessary with our new affiliate application sign-up. By this we mean that all technical aspects are checked just as rigidly as on the backend in order to ensure the applicant is indeed who they say they are.

Q: What is the biggest issue fraud-related in the performance marketing industry right now?

A: Well, let’s see – that’s an excellent question! I would say the biggest fraud related issue in the industry right now is that some networks simply don’t know how to properly manage fraudulent activity. You really see this with a lot of the newer networks since they come into the whole thing thinking it’s going to be a walk in the park and they ultimately receive a very unpleasant reality shock. New networks will always exist as large targets for fraudsters because these people prey upon the relative innocence and usually undermined resources of the new network team. Many of the new affiliate networks also broker offers from other networks and once fraudsters target the network, they pump the fraud for all it’s worth and the network doesn’t even know how to spot it. As such, the advertiser for the particular offer in question gets inundated with tons and tons of fraud traffic. It’s a damn shame.

When you take a step back and break everything down to its core parts, there’s just no way to prevent failure of any kind without adequate levels of risk management. Plain and simple! It’s just so frustrating to try and wrap your head around, really. How do you even survive for more than a few months without the technology, resources and necessary precautions in place? It’s absolutely asinine and is also directly related to the pathetically short turnover time for new affiliate networks. You can’t help those that can’t help themselves so there’s really no sense in getting too emotional about the whole thing.

Q: Why did you switch to Cake Marketing as your platform? What is so good about it?

A: Well, if you’ve learned anything about us thus far than you can probably already guess that we demoed every single tracking system that was available on the market. In a perfect world, we wanted a robust admin side and a clean, streamlined, easy-on-the-eyes affiliate side of things. Since we have our own analytical fraud system in-house, we needed a company that was willing and able to work with us very tightly and in a very detailed overall integration process. When we first talked to CAKE and had a chance to demo their fine product, we were ridiculously impressed by the system because it was incredibly clean while also being extremely robust. The user interface all by itself is a work of art in our eyes – it’s very quick, very clean, very, very pleasing to the eye. And in addition to all of this, it’s also fully functional.

Even with the visual and technical aspects aside, the CAKE development and support team is hands-down one of the best we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and working with throughout the entire business. In a word, they’re just incredible. Not only do they listen to your needs, they also sincerely want to improve on anything that would ultimately give you a better product from their point of view. And as if all of this wasn’t enough, they’ve been just as fantastic in providing us with API’s that we need to integrate our fraud analytical system. Top marks all across the board!

Q: In 2011 what verticals do you see growing?

A: Hmm… well, I suppose I need to start off with lead generation (or lead-gen for short) as those offers just in general are growing and growing. We’ve talked to a vast multitude of different publishers who are also seeing more and more traffic in the overall lead-gen realm. Since the publisher themselves are not responsible for actually closing the deal, it’s very intriguing – very promising as well. They’re ultimately only responsible for generating the initial lead, which is arguably infinitely easier than getting a potential consumer to bust out their credit cards.

There’s a lot of buzz and talk about mobile offers but that’s likely to continue growing gradually throughout the year. It will develop slow and steady and ultimately be a major player in the endgame down the road into the future. As such, I don’t really see it skyrocketing this year as so many people have been predicting. It looks as if the development cycle for mobile will continue to increase and slowly gain momentum over the next three years or so as mobile technology continues to be harnessed and developed (think bandwidth limits finally getting pushed into the market as a whole).

Q: What types of offers do you seeing disappearing? What type of offers would you like to see disappear?

A: Well, I think continuity offers are going to fade away, but not completely. I don’t think they can ever really fade away for good per se, but for smaller companies that don’t have access to 300 MIDs on their backend – well, they’re ultimately going to fall prey to charge-backs and other merchant accounts locking up completely. The continuity space overall is incredibly risky and, from a network stand point, you really need to know exactly who you’re working with. You also need to understand the backend workflow and how they manage the entire lifecycle of the product from start to finish. If you don’t do either of these things, or at least don’t have direct access to whoever you’re working with, then you’re strongly increasing the risk of becoming involved in working with a deadbeat advertiser.

There’s a ton of money to be made in the continuity space, but as with everywhere else where there’s profit, you need to learn how to do everything while combating your own conscience and greed. Some merchants and networks merely see the dollar signs and lose track of their overall path.

Think about it, you rack up a few hundred thousand dollars off an offer but the merchant’s bank account(s) freeze up completely the same day or the following day. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy…

Q: Is there any place for incentive-based marketing? What type does work, how, and what are the problems about that part of that industry?

A: Overall, incentive-based marketing is a completely different ballgame. When we first launched we ran some interactive offers on the network and found that to be a mistake – at least for us, rather. Since publishers will always try and bend the rules whenever and wherever they can, they start running incentive traffic on non-incentive offers. For this reason and this reason alone, we decided to remove any and all incentive offers from the network. And to be honest, I’d do it all over again if I had to. It’s definitely been worth saving on all that hassle and stress.

Q: Is there a place for incentive-based marketing?

A: There’s obviously always going to be a place for incentive-based marketing if only because of certain business models that exist within the industry today. They’re practically built around it and money is flowing in and out of these companies like clockwork. As long as there’re business models that exist and are built around the entire concept of incentive offers, there will always be a place where they can be accessed, yes.

Q: What are key things that you look for in a new affiliate?

A: First and foremost we always want to try and make sure that the new affiliate is indeed who they say they are. We see so much identity theft in regards to applicants and it’s quite obvious that the fraudsters out there have a whole laundry list of stolen identities. Once we get past the part of verifying their identity, then we can try to figure out just how serious they are about making money online.

Some networks won’t give the newbie affiliates the time of day – mainly because they don’t see any reason to work with the less-profitable, asking-questions-all-damn-day guy. One of our network philosophies is that we aim to work with each and every person regardless of their experience and without discrimination – period. If you think about it, every single super affiliate in this industry started out as a newbie just like everyone else. To not try and establish and harvest new talent would be like a professional sports team forsaking the draft completely in favor of signing old veterans. It’s just a dumb philosophy overall.

Q: Honestly, why should an affiliate work with you? Aren’t all networks the same just brokering the same offers? Is there really a difference?

A: On one hand you can say that offers are offers and most affiliate networks do indeed have very similar offers. It’s common knowledge that some networks pay more than others and some networks have completely exclusive offers.

It’s almost become like a rinse-and-rewash cycle in regards to what new affiliate networks say when they first hit the ground running. Everyone claims to treat their affiliates the best, everyone claims to possess the best offers and highest payouts and everyone claims that they hold customer service above all else in their network philosophy. Just spin those three statements up with new adjectives and a noun or two and you’ve got yourself the script for what will be said for years to come.

Ultimately, we feel that the way we treat our affiliates and publishers will ultimately, somewhere down the line, have a direct reflection of said goodwill and kindness back upon us. You can go to the highest buildings in the most crowded cities around the world and spout off the most phonetically pleasing promises and claims as a network, but ultimately, all it’s going to get you is face time. While there are a lot of affiliate networks all throughout the industry, if you’re not getting face time just from existing as a network in this industry then you need to close up shop because you haven’t the first idea on how to market your company.

On this same token, we feel that treating all of our affiliates and publishers to the best of our ability, with all of the kindness and compassion we would want to receive in their steed is the way to go. We know from experience that doing this is the fastest route to real, loyal affiliates who will not only continue to run with us for the remainder of their careers, but will also go out of their way to let people know that Envyus Media is the place that you need to go if you wanted to be treated with dignity; if you want to be treated with respect and kindness and zeal regardless of how many years you have logged doing the damn thing. A full-on, loyal testimonial from an affiliate is a truly beautiful thing indeed!

Basically, when it’s all said and done, you need to review affiliate networks not by their words or overall affiliate list, but by their actions. By how they act and treat their affiliates when they don’t think that anyone is looking. This along with a network’s cadre of loyal affiliates, offer the truest representation of just how valued a particular network truly is.

Q: Do you pay affiliates even if you don’t get paid? Is the standard of affiliates not being paid when networks mess up good for the industry? Love some comments.

A: A networks relationship with a publisher is essentially just that – between the network and the publisher. The network is ultimately responsible for taking the risk involved in regards to working with merchants and as such, networks should show due diligence and manage relationships and contacts with merchants in the smartest way they know how. If the network doesn’t get paid then that should never, ever, EVER reflect upon whether or not a publisher is getting paid – unless of course there was fraudulent activity taking place…

Although it’s getting bigger all the while, this industry is still relatively small. If you want to start burning your publishers by not paying them then word is going to get out fast and you’re essentially going to be writing yourself a one-way ticket to bankruptcy for your network. All trust would be gone and you’d be screwed up-stream without a paddle. And that’s never a good thing.

Q: What is your dream car?

A: That’s a tough one… I think I’m going to have to go with a 1969 Chevy Camaro, built on an Art Morrison sub frame with four-link rear suspension. In the engine bay would sit a twin turbo LS7 motor (the same motor as the 2011 ZR1 Corvette) pumping out upwards of 1,000 horsepower. The car would be built in a way that would keep the stock look but also have a slight twist of “badass-ness” in regards to the motor and mechanicals.

It would have to have all of the most recent technology in regards to brakes, suspension, electronics and so on and so forth. There’s just something to be said for building your very own classic car because it’s not just something you can plop down six-figures on and drive it off the showroom floor. It’s an extension of yourself and allows you to let your creative side come out to play!

Q: What airline do you guys use and why?

A: Whatever deal we can land on Orbitz.com! =)

Written by Pace Lattin

Pace Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pace Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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