To rapidly increase brand awareness and acquire new players quickly, the media buying channel serves as a perfect complement to affiliate marketing’s slow-building effect. When done well, media buys with high-traffic sites – whether ads are placed directly or programmatically – can help to build revenue in a small timescale with strong ROI.

Here we explain why it’s important for iGaming brands to incorporate media buying into their broader marketing strategy, supporting in particular their affiliate marketing efforts with niche traffic sources.

Developing the Right Media Buying Mix

In contrast to the affiliate marketing model, media buying involves brands paying for ad impressions rather than actual player conversions. However, questions of the ROI and cost-effectiveness of the channel are counterbalanced by the high volumes of traffic to which a brand is exposed and the tech advances of programmatic media buys over the last few years. That said, direct buys remain an important ingredient in any media buy strategy.

Because everything is algorithmic, programmatic media buying cuts out a lot of manual work in finding a single, well-performing source of players. It’s also a great way of rapidly giving your brand broad exposure across hundreds of sites with targeted audiences according to your predefined criteria (demographics and general interests such as sports and entertainment).

Google reports that almost half (44.3%) of media buyers have seen their ad click-through-rates (CTRs) increase through programmatic buys. This suggests that programmatic is helping to mitigate concerns about the channel’s cost-effectiveness, even as it significantly expands the audience seeing your brand’s ads.

The channel’s cost-effectiveness has also improved through retargeting. Users who click through on your banner and fail to convert when they visit your landing page can now be served your ad again at other sites they visit. Income Access’ data reveals that consumers who’ve engaged with an iGaming brand’s site are 5-10% more likely to convert than a user unfamiliar with the offering. This demonstrating the power of retargeted media buys.

That said, old-school direct media buying with individual sites whose audience fits your customer model very specifically still remains highly relevant. If you’re a poker brand, you’ll want to negotiate a cost-per-mille (CPM) impressions deal with go-to poker news sites. Meanwhile, US-facing horse-racing wagering sites will want to arrange ad deals with the top racing news and analysis sites visited by American horse punters.

This approach allows brands to home in on a single source, custom-picking the most vertical-specific high-traffic websites to reach their exact target audience straight away. Most top-performing sites offering pre-negotiated CPM deals with brands have dedicated, long-standing audiences, and use a sophisticated array of digital marketing channels (SEM, social media, ASO and even TV and out-of-home ads) to ensure they are constantly engaging their readers with their content – and your ads.

Balancing direct buys with programmatic, we recommend allocating around 30% to 35% of marketing spend to the channel out of your overall budget.

We then recommend spending around 50% of your budget on affiliate marketing, with the remaining 15% to 20% on other channels such as PPC and social media (paid and organic).

Brand Awareness

Whether your media buys are programmatic or direct, the high traffic of the sites where ads are placed will serve to significantly raise brand awareness. For newly-launched brands, this exposure makes media buying a vital complement to affiliate programmes, especially during their early building stages.

While results can fluctuate, media buying will guarantee high exposure for your new brand in the initial stage after you’ve launched. Direct and programmatic buys, including retargeting campaigns, in the first months after launch will introduce your offering to potential customers – and ultimately grow your player base, as your affiliate programme gains traction. After six months, you can reduce your media buying spend to rely on the more cost-effective channel of affiliates.

The Future of Media Buying

The last few years have seen an increase in merger and acquisition (M&A) in the iGaming affiliate sector, a trend that’s expected to continue. At the same time, bigger affiliates are becoming major online media sites in their own right – and embracing the CPM advertising model as a result.

The result of this is that building brand awareness through media buying will only become more significant going forward, for both operators and affiliates. Small brands using this acquisition channel benefit from its “uplifting” effect, which also helps affiliates who are promoting the same brand. The various benefits of media buying mean that brands should consider investing in the channel, for it’s a vital growth channel when used efficiently alongside an affiliate programme.

Want to discover more about media buying? At Income Access, we offer media buying services in addition to our core affiliate software and in-house affiliate programme management. To find out more, please reach out.