Leaders and CEOs

Alex Zhardanovsky went from Epic to Doggie.

I’ve personally known Alex Zhardanovsky for a long time – for almost as long as I’ve been in the industry. During that time, I’ve learned several things about him. First, he’s one of the smartest business men that I’ve ever met: he knows how to get things done, he knows how to take the competition out when necessary but also knows how to build bridges. Secondly, he always has really hot women around him. I’m not sure what it is, but wherever he goes there are models hanging on him like flies on flypaper. After his success in building EPIC into one of the biggest online advertising media powerhouses, he moved onto creating Petflow.com an online pet-food shipping superstore. In about a year, it’s become the #1 online petfood solution and if he wasn’t already rich enough, making him a much richer man. Maybe we can learn a bit from him.

How did you originally get started with the idea of Azoogleads?
AzoogleAds was created because we really weren’t happy with the way that publishers were treated back in 2000/2001.  There really weren’t many “network” options other than Webclients, Adteractive, CJ/Linkshare, private brokered deals and agencies.  There was no real-time repo
rting, no reliable way to know how much you were actually getting paid at the end of the month or if a check was even coming.  We were already aggregating several publishers’ traffic and disbursing commissions, and those publishers were asking us for an online interface that they could log into to see stats of how their campaigns were performing.  So in early 2002, we built the interface, and launched AzoogleAds in July.

Why did Azoogle use its own system instead of using another CPA system like directtrack?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t think directtrack as a licensed platform even existed back in 2002.  I believe that Jason Wolfe (the founder of DirectTrack) was still operating MyCoupons.com at the time, but I could be mistaken.  More importantly, we have always believed in building infrastructure that suited us, as out-of-the-box solutions have many shortcomings.  At the time we launched, we were unique, so we really didn’t have to look “different” than any other network.  In hindsight, the fact that we owned our own technology platform allowed us to execute much faster than many of our competitors, because we could build custom solutions for many of our publishers, when others did not.

Do you think that any company can become a major player in the CPA game using a third party system, why or why not?
I am a strong believer in controlling your own destiny and I don’t think you can do that if you build businesses on top of someone else’s technology.  Especially when the technology you are using is consumer-facing.

What do you think about state of the industry fraud wise, with companies being investigated by the FTC, AG lawsuits and so on. What did Epic/Azoogle do that was different to prevent this?
Fraud will always exist, no matter how hard you try to curtail it.  There will always be opportunistic individuals, those who the laws of this (US) country don’t necessarily touch.  At Epic, we spent a considerable amount of resources on ensuring publisher and advertiser compliance, often at the expense of significant revenues.

Is there any company in the CPA game that you can currently point to besides Epic and say that they are doing a good job? What are they doing right?
I really don’t think that anyone stands out, there are hundreds of networks all doing the same thing.  Everyone claims to have high payouts, exclusive offers, fast payment terms, and great affiliate managers.  None of those 4 things are important anymore, as they’re listed on every single networks’ homepage.  I don’t claim to know what the silver bullet is these days, but anyone running a CPA network needs to remember that it’s a technology-enabled services business, and if you don’t have great relationships with all of your partners, on both sides (advertiser and publisher), then you’re just another me-too that no one cares about.

Do you feel there is still space for new CPA Networks to make money? If so, what do they need to provide to compete?
No matter the industry, there is always room for smart people to make money.  The ones that will be most successful in this space, are ones that understand their advertisers and are willing to invest resources in creative design, technology infrastructure and their relationships.

What made you and  your partner Joe decide to start PetFlow.com?
If you’re a dog or cat owner, there’s 3 things that your dog/cat is guaranteed to do every day.  Eat, poop, and sleep.  2 of those 3 things have to do with the pet’s food.  Over 40% of American households have a pet, and under 4% of those households have ever made a purchase online for their pets.   For us, that presented a huge opportunity for a pet food replenishment businesses.  PetFlow is on fire.


Will PetFlow be bigger than Epic money wise for you? Why?
Yes. The online advertising industry generates $22.7 billion in sales in 2009. The Pet industry generates over $48 billion in annual sales.  You do the math 🙂

What is PetFlow’s current affiliate model and relationship? Why did you stop using Commission Junction?
We work directly with publishers an do our own media buying.  I still believe strongly in affiliate marketing, but CJ was not a good partner for us.  I wrote a post about why we chose to stop working with CJ.

What is the environment at PetFlow like? What are your employees passions and what makes them get up in the morning and go to work?
The environment here is exactly the same as the one we had at AzoogleAds when we started.  It’s very relaxed.  Everyone knows what they need to do every day and gets their job done.  There are no set hours, but everyone is expected to perform to the best of their abilities.  Our door is always open to suggestions and we try very hard to keep both our customers and our employees happy.   As a budding ecommerce company that interacts with tens of thousands of customers on a monthly basis, we really can’t afford to mess up.

What is your dream car and why?
Audi r8.  I own it, and it’s f’n awesome.

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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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  1. This is definitely as kick ass niche to be in. My bud owns http://wiki-pet.com and it is growing like a weed. Does Alex have an affiliate program for his site yet? I did not see it last time I checked. I may run some ads for him on wiki-pet as I got some sick epc's on that stupid crazy critters offer once. Kudos to Alex and hope his site kicks ass! 🙂

  2. Oh yeah don't approve my comments typical Pace. Not to mention Alex did business with scumbags like Wilms which you don't seem to like at all….

    You're contributing to the oxymoronic moronic crap in this industry.

    1. Actually "Steve" I am not approving your comments because you keep on leaving comments attacking people without any proof whatsoever. Since you are writing things anonymously from an offshore IP address it seems to me that you just have a vendetta against Alex. From the sound of it, you are an unhappy x-employee or some sort of stalker with a man-crush. Identify yourself and I'll approve them.

  3. Good article. Alex would succeed whatever model he chose to go after. And that is either the two legged variety, or the four legged, or any model without legs….think I better stop the model analogy right there.

    I always found it funny how many people when trying to present tutorials on keyword research always chose "dog training". As Alex has pointed out the size of just dogs and cats is bigger than online advertising in it's entirety.

    Well done on the success with PetFlow Alex!

  4. Hi, can you please pass this on to your friend Alex?


    My experience with Petflow so far. I made comments about my experience on another website last night and posted them here. This morning Petflow commented to me that there was nothing there followed by doh! Very respectful and professional way to talk to a customer. Well, here is my experience with Petflow. Looks like the webmaster on that site took my comments down. She work for petflow? You know what doh is? The incompetence of your company. I ordered supplies a couple of weeks ago and it was sent out late because it “missed the last fed-ex truck”. I wasted my time and effort trying to resolve this so I would not have to waste my time or others waiting for my package. I spoke to the head of your customer service department who apologized, gave me a credit etc. I decided that I would try the service again and ordered supplies on Monday. I spoke with Cody on Tuesday and again was told my order “missed the last fed-ex truck!” I asked him to watch my order and make sure it gets out the door as advertised…within 24 hours or sooner from the state of the art warehouse. Of course it would not be sent out within 24 hrs or sooner. I was sent a fed-ex tracking number to my e-mail on Monday night saying my packages had shipped. I had made plans for my sister to wait for my pkg. today. However, I called fed-ex last night when the only information my tracking number was giving me was that my order was “initiated”. The woman at fed-ex told me that my order was NOT picked up yesterday!!! This is total incompetence and unprofessional. Almost 72 hours after I placed my order and it still has not been picked up, yet your company is sending customers tracking numbers and telling them that their order was shipped?!? That’s what doh is. I don’t appreciate my time nor the time of my relatives wasted like this. What happened THIS TIME? I’m sure all your facebook fans or potential customers would love to know…as would I.

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