Affilired: Using Technology to Put Heads on Pillows

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Affilired: Using Technology to Put Heads on Pillows

Using technology to put heads on pillows

Have you ever been to Parc Bit, also known as Mallorca’s Silicone Valley? It’s where all the start-ups and entrepreneurs on the island congregate.

Although I have never been to the original Silicone Valley, I always pictured it as a collection of ghastly grey high-rises made of aluminium and plastic, teeming with man-bunned hipsters wearing T-shirts with inspirational quotes, beards down to their knees, zipping through the corridors on skateboards.

“We started developing websites for hotel chains. Global Red grew, and soon we had 30 to 35 employees. That was when the internet bubble burst.”

Yes, we all have our prejudices.

So I was pleased and not a little relieved to find Parc Bit full of normal buildings and people with normal clothes and hair, set in the most charming countryside just north of Palma. I went up on the number 15 bus to find nature in full swing, with young trees bursting out in iridescence and people having walk-and-talk meetings in the meadows.

And in this idyllic setting is the office of Affilired, incidentally the very first company Olive Valley contacted to feature on our website. They were unavailable at the time, busy as they were moving offices to Parc Bit and renovating the new place. I am certainly glad we waited so I could see their new office in all its splendour, white and red, naturally, although Red in Spanish means Network…

I am greeted by the effervescent Communications and Marketing Director Ana Carmona, a half Andalusian half Mancunian lady who is the cheery face of Affilired. She takes me to an office where I have managed to catch the founder of the company, Diego Gomila, in a twenty minute break between bouts. By “bouts” I mean back-to-back trips, dashing between Mallorca and the rest of the world to meet clients and go to travel shows.

“Although our whole business is online, I believe in the face-to-face meetings. We have an office in India, I often go to Thailand… Oh, and we have clients in China, Indonesia, the Maldives… We are now working with Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. There are many big hotels there and they need guests!“

But how will a smallish company in Mallorca get guests into hotels in Dubai?

Stupid question – anything is possible with the miraculous internet. According to Affilired’s website, they are the first performance marketing agency to focus solely on the travel sector, and now they are seasoned veterans with 12 years under their belt. They create organic business for everyone in the travel industry, especially the larger hotel chains. And the beauty is, no one has to pay anything until a validated sale has been made.

“I started off with founding the company Global Red,” Gomila, who was born in Menorca, recalls.

“At that time, the hotel business was, to put it diplomatically, a bit behind the times. They were taking out full-page ads in newspaper hoping for customers, that kind of thing. Only 1% of their business came from the internet, and they preferred to let guests take brochures from receptions rather than doing direct marketing. But now it’s different. Now they are on board with our business model, CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)…”

And Global Red?

“Yes, so I moved from Minorca to Mallorca, and it turned out one of my friends here was the first person to start internet connections on the island. So I saw an opportunity. I started buying up internet domains, and started Global Red. We had all of two clients! The first client’s website was something like… how should I put it… a kind of personal, one-man dating site.

Intriguing!

“We started developing websites for hotel chains. Global Red grew, and soon we had 30 to 35 employees. That was when the internet bubble burst.”

Oh, the early 2000s with their floppy disks and dial-up modems. What an innocent time it was, and how long ago!

We consider making mistakes as a learning experience.

“So I started working with hotel marketing. One day a client said: ‘I have a website but I need to sell heads on pillows in beds!’ So we started to create a platform that would put different affiliate networks together and connect advertisers with publishers. That was 12, 13 years ago. Since then, the hotel business has caught up with the internet revolution. Now they all want measurable and direct online advertising, and we can help them with that. We connect hotel groups and other travel industry-related companies such as airlines with their potential clients. Our clients don’t have to pay for this advertising until a sale is made.”

That sounds like the right way forward, and so much more meaningful than the old model of pouring lots of breadcrumbs into the sea and hoping someone bites.

“Now we have 23 employees here in Mallorca and 13 in India, where our APAC division is based. We serve 250 clients in 20 different countries. We have many clients in Thailand, in fact we are the number one service of our kind in Asia. In addition to our office India, we are also planning to open an office in Miami,” smiles Gomila, who has reason to feel proud of what he has built, as well as of his new beautiful office. Oh, and of his 35 employees, whom he does not fail to praise and reward.

“Yes, I like to do things that boost our company culture. We have AffiliFridays, an after work party – with lots of food and drinks of course – we go on trips to the beach, we have team building activities and we also organise corporate trips…” “Yes,” Carmona nods.

“He took the whole team from the Indian office to Goa! For many it was the first time they saw the ocean. We also went on a fun trip to Morocco and many of us also participated in a very hard Oxfam Trailwalk in Bilbao some time ago. It was a challenge but Diego was the main promoter and was involved in every step of this adventure, encouraging us to train as a team. Fun fact: only 2 members made it to the finish line after more than 24h walking non-stop!”

“Every year we have Affilired Awards, a party we celebrate both in Mallorca and Thailand where we give awards to our best clients and all the Mallorca staff is invited as,” Gomila adds.

“Of course we have made mistakes,” Diego Gomila answers when the inevitable question ‘Is there anything you wish you had done differently’ comes.

“But we consider making mistakes as a learning experience. And I like to delegate work,” he continues, “because I believe everyone is better than me!”

So is there anywhere in the world he hasn’t been? Gomila, who must be racking up more frequent flyer miles than the entire tourist body of Mallorca does in a year, looks dreamily into the middle distance.

“Oh yes, I still haven’t been to Peru… or Myanmar. Or Colombia.” He looks wistful for a moment, then gets up, waving a cheerful goodbye, and off he swishes. He has to be somewhere on the other side of the world in half an hour or something.

Meanwhile Parc Bit’s many bars and restaurants ready themselves for the Friday after work festivities. I bet once the train line is opened the place will be even more heaving – it will be faster than going by car. Let alone the number 15 bus.

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Cecilie Gamst Berg

Writer at Olive Valley
Cecilie has endless energy and loves networking with business owners. Did we mention she speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, and can read and write Chinese characters!
Cecilie Gamst Berg
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