When I look around the affiliate industry, all I see if one fluff interview after another from the Gurus of the industry. Frankly, I am sure how many interviews I can read that start with “CEO of this company is amazing, innovative and he has a great hairdo to boot.” So, I decided to try something new – which was ask some honest questions of four different CEOs of affiliate networks and see what they’d answer independently. What came out was a very interesting comparison between four different companies. I’ll let you do the analysis.
Q: If you could develop a new technology to the industry to give to affiliates what would it be?
Mike Krongel, COPEC: I hope we developed technology that will benefit affiliates with our recent system launch, we have many enhancements planned that we hope will provide real value to pubs
Nick Foley, Revenue Street: Desktop & mobile apps so affiliates could easily monitor & check daily statistics and revenue. This would save time for affiliates. They could load the desktop app and run it all day on their computer and see what offers they are running, what revenue they have earned and what eCPM’s they are getting. The same holds true for the mobile application. Affiliates need to stay up to date on all campaigns they are running because if a campaign is not producing for them they need to shut it down.
Jason Akatiff, Ads4Dough: I think anyone that answers this would be crazy As someone would just steal their idea and do it. Unless they were lazy of course.
Peter Bordes, MediaTrust: Conversion analytics allowing real-time intelligence and efficiency to manage/trade across media channels. to much media buying is done manually and there is a tremendous amount of data that can be used to become a highly effective trader of media. Think about being to trade from the Bloomberg terminal of affiliate marketing that allows you to trade cpm, cpc’s like they are currencies and connecting the “impression to performance” (btw this is under construction at MediaTrust for 2011) our industry is very parallel to Wall Street in that is all about liquidity and trading it.yet we have sub par trading tools…
Q: Do you allow affiliates to mask their links (hide them so you can’t see source?) What is the reasoning behind your answer?
Mike Krongel, COPEAC: We discourage pubs from masking their links as it reduces our ability to go to bat for the publisher if there are issues with their traffic. This practice is why some big advertisers are hesitant to work in the space, as they feel if you need to hide something then you’re not really on the up and up
Jason Akatiff, Ads4Dough: Sure. We’ve had numerous advertisers steal campaigns from affiliates reversing out what they were doing based on refers. As an affiliate your only asset is your campaign information. The more you can protect this data the better. Sometimes you have to share it but just be very careful who you share it with and definitely don’t let everyone in the food chain see your data.
Nick Foley, Revenuestreet: Our software EFFECTUS has a referring URL feature. This feature allows us to trace the URL to its orgin so we can see exactrly what is going on with traffic. It’s not 100% fool-proof but it does work the majority of the time. Transparency is a big deal in our industry. Anytime an affiliate masks URLs and will not allow you to see what is what then red flags fly all over the place.
Peter Bordes, MediaTrust: We do not encourage this practice and push for more transparency which creates more trust for brands to come into our space. “if you are being real you have nothing to hide” and this creates great trust between networks, affiliates, advertisers and consumer. We have to become a transparency & quality driven industry. No more smoking mirrors or short cuts!
Q: Email Marketing aka SPAM is still huge in the industry, what changes do you see to be made? Will it ever go away, or do you feel it’s a necessary evil?
Mike Krongel, COPEAC: I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of spam because it works well for so many people, I do think that spam is a lot less than what it was in the past
Nick Foley, RevenueStreet: I come from email marketing. It’s how I got my start so I’m a fan. In 1998 SPAM was not SPAM it was a way to make great money. Now the ethical way to make money is to email properly. Email marketing is one of the fastest way to produce traffic but knowing how to email is an art form. It’s not just loading a list, creative and hitting send. Ethical opt-in email marketing has taken a form. It’s must be done correctly for it to profitable. The Can-SPAM Act has helped and companies like LashBack and UnSubCentral. They keep email marketing ethics in line. So in my opinion email marketing is a necessarytraffic vehicle and will will be for years.
Jason Akatiff, Ads4Dough: I don’t think it’s evil first off. As with the drug problem if users stopped buying the the whole drug trade would crumble. Email is much the same way, as long as people want mortgages, acai or their santa letters email will continue. Nothing can stop it or make it go away.
There will always be a way around any filter. It’s gotten a lot more compliant and reputation based. Not so much spray and pray anymore so I see it moving in the right direction.
Peter Bordes, MediaTrust: It is not a necessary evil. Spam is a disease and indicative of people who are interested in a quick buck and not building real businesses. This game continues to happen and appears to be diminishing as the cat and mouse cycles shorten thru industry regulation and less tolerance. It should not be tolerated and should be ousted because it hurts everyone else who is working hard to build real long term value and enterprise ROI.
Q: What do you think the FTC is going to go after next in performance based marketing?
Mike Krongel, COPEAC: I don’t think its any one thing that they will go after next, but I am very concerned over the issues congress is raising with behavioral advertising and what effect it’ll have on the performance marketing space
Peter Bordes, MediaTrust: I hope not and NO. Inb my opinion the only issue with PBM is the fraud. It’s on the affiliates who produce the fraud. The FTC should target those fraudulent affiliates, not the industry.
Jason Akitaiff, Ads4Dough: Whatever is doing the most volume with the most complaints as always.
So in this case I’d guess Penny Auctions.
Peter Bordes, MediaTrust: I don’t think there’s any particular one yet. They have to much to deal with now regarding fraud, privacy and have not finished in the areas they are currently attacking. i think they will start taking a more proactive role in setting guidelines and regulation frameworks. Right now they are playing catch-up on the super highway of digital grey they have left open for far too long. What’s taken the FTC so long to regulate? DRTV and others are!
Q: What is your opinion of the current GURU and get-rich trend of performance based marketing?
Mike Krongel, Copeac: even guru’s need to earn a living, I do think that newbies getting in to the space need to realize that these guru’s mainly make their money by selling newbs on how they made money online or supposedly made money online
Nick Foley, RevenueStreet: As with many of the “get rich schemes” this just inundates our industry with inexperienced people thinking affiliate marketing is a quick easy home based business. I believe this mainly spawns fraud and a bad image for our industry. This is becomes a burden when larger branded advertiser look to affiliate marketing as part of their marketing plans.
Jason Akatiff, Ads4Dough: I actually got into this business buying a business opportunity. So as far as the trend I think it’s always been there. The guru is just a different angle for selling them that seems to work well. The whole guru angle is building a following, much like Robert Allen did with offline media back in the day. If you follow you believe. It’s all just marketing love it or hate it.
Peter Bordes, MediaTrust: Just another bubble being created that is only going to cause more issues with the credibility of affiliate marketing. Same as what happened in biz opp. I get 10 tweets a day from the latest new self anointed marketing expert. There is to much noise and bs in this respect which ultimately equals negative backlash.
Q: How do we rectify the growing opinion that the industry is just full of 18 year old kids?
Mike Krongel, COPEAC: The industry was a bunch of 18 year olds, 10 years ago, now they are 28 :). Also bill gates, steve jobs, etc were all 18 at some point as were most of the people reading this. Age shouldn’t deter people actions should
Nick Foley, RevenueStreet: Ten years ago it was, now they are in thier late 20’s and early 30’s. The industry is evolving and getting older or shall I say wiser. As we grow as professionals so will our industry. Unfortunately, we will always have those people who are reckless and create a bad light for our industry. But as long as we continue to education people in our industry and keep them informed on best practices. I feel our industry will continue to grow year after year.
Jason Akatiff, Ads4Dough: Honestly it is a lot of young kids that make the echo system go. They read a business opportunity, blog or whatever and want to get involved. That’s what makes our business amazing. Some 16 year old kid in a Brazilian village can become the highest paid person in his whole village ( a real affiliate of ours ). It’s that which make our business great and drives a lot of the sales. It’s up to the industry leaders to illustrate to the rest of the world that there are checks and balances in place to suit more of the ‘branded” world. Think of the CPM world for example they have 1000’s of publishers in a CPM network that could be 18 year old kids or 90 year old men. Most people that look at the industry deal with an account rep at Aol, Yahoo or some other media network. They’re not dealing with publishers directly, I think the same thing needs to happen here if we’re to make a consolidated view.
Peter Bordes, MediaTrust: We need to act like a unified industry and create a centralized voice and organization that focuses on building our industry and its reputation. Every major marketing segment has one. We have the PMA and absolutely need to all get involved. Affiliate networks, affiliate marketers, affiliate publishers, merchants, advertisers and service providers. We cannot continue as a fragments and black boxed marketing channel. We will not realize our fullest potential and it’s time to grow up. I feel like most people fight the PMA because they don’t want to grow up. I do!