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March 31, 2016

The Phoenix Forum Kicks Off

TEMPE, Ariz.—The Phoenix Forum began in earnest Thursday for the 16th time, creating a festive atmosphere at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel. The mild forecast—it was a mere 75 degrees in the mid-afternoon—and the familiar surroundings for one of the industry’s most popular gatherings, led to a day full of optimism as the conference began taking shape. In one of the highlight sessions of opening day, Kristen Kaye, head of KSquared Dynamics and chief marketing officer for Fleshlight, moderated a roundtable session called “Success and Adaption.” With the panelists positioned in the middle of the room and the audience members sitting theater style around them, the expert speakers shared insights about the importance of networking at shows such as TPF. “Work with every single person,” said Ed Kunkel, the chief operating officer of The Dating Network whose been in adult since 1993. “Get cards. It is a business first. Take risks. It’s a wonderful business. It’s a forgiving business. You’ll find certain people who know everybody and remember everybody. Have somebody take you under their wing.” Holly Ruprecht, the senior manager of business development for LFP Internet Group, also offered sage advice. “Don’t believe your own hype, no matter how big you think you are,” Ruprecht said. “It doesn’t matter what size company you are or who you think you are, you have to be able to work with anybody.” Trans icon Buck Angel said things are looking up for the adult industry because “there’s more sex positivity” in general in America today. Meanwhile Wendy Nelson, the vice president of sales for Netbilling, told attendees to make sure they do their homework when choosing a billing company. “Check them out and make sure they’ve been in the space for a long time,” Nelson said, noting it can’t be a one-way street of communication. If you haven’t heard from your biller in six months, that’s a red flag. “They need to go to you, too. You don’t need to always go to the billing company.” Drawing from his own experiences of building and rebuilding various companies, The Dating Network’s Kunkel suggested, “You need a shit storm once in a while. It can help you to change your focus, especially if you’ve gotten too complacent.” The “Traffic ABC’s” panel, moderated by Affil4you Managing Director Joey Gabra, featured comments from Paul Kluzak (CCBill), Sarah Mallie (EroAdvertising), Jeremy Wagshul (Revolution Force) and Brian Elkan (Affil4you).  "Tracking is key to successful media buying,” Elkan emphasized. “It’s not even worth doing trials if you don’t have tracking set up." When the topic switched to ad formats, Elkan said, “all traffic ad formats can work; it’s just a matter of your level of expertise in optimizing them.” Wagshul, the senior media buyer for the Sacramento-based Revolution Force who is at TPF for the first time, found the panel to be productive and inspiring.   “I thought Joey did a really good job moderating. It’s incredibly energizing to see other like-minded people that are willing to discuss topics that I think about all the time,” Wagshul said afterward. “This is not a career or a job, this is a lifestyle. That’s really what it comes down to. There’s never really an end to the day. There’s never really a start to the day. It’s just a constant evolution of change and basically where do you get in and how do you last in this industry?” Wagshul continued, “There’s always something new that’s exciting to me or something I had no idea about. For instance the ad blocking. I have a total understanding of it, but just to bring it up and think about it and try to develop a process of how I would answer that it’s good. It makes me learn. It makes me think about what I want to do on the forum tonight—to go ahead and read a little more in depth about that so I can have similar valuable information to pass along.” A native of the Bay Area, Wagshul said he recommends starting off as an affiliate, just like he and his brother did. “Anyone who finds interest in it should push, push, push until you can get something to pop. You have to be out there. You have to exercise all possibilities, no questions asked,” he said. To complement the beginner’s traffic panel, TPF added a “Traffic XYZs” panel that included perspectives from Danny McKaren (Playgirl), Ray Kelsey (CCBill), William Soares Pinto (TheHubPeople), Chris Rodger (Payze), Lauren MacEwen (7Veils) and Yancy Naughton (HasTraffic). Nigel Williams of DigiWorldPartners moderated the session. “That one one of the most engaged panels you’ll see,” Naughton said, noting the well-roundedness of the speakers on the stage. In what has become an online community tradition, the spacious courtyard at the Tempe Mission Palms once again was the central hub for casual conversation for the 800-plus attendees that traveled to the Valley of the Sun from all over the world. Representatives from the host company, CCBill, decked out in crisp, turquoise polo shirts, circulated the property throughout the day to make sure attendees were finding their destinations and all the sessions were running smoothly.  A leader in payment solutions since 1998, CCBill processes more than a billion dollars in transactions each year and is one of the largest third-party payment processors in the world. Just after sundown, CCBill owner Ron Cadwell took the stage in the back of the courtyard, thanking attendees and showing his gratitude to the sponsors by calling them to the stage and handing each a bottle of Cristal champagne. That set the tone for the evening, which had just begun as the Cybersocket Opening Party loomed along with what was sure to be no shortage of action in the Late Night Suites. 

 
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