The once wildly popular Mad Men still serves as a solid reminder that things in advertising have changed dramatically. And they continue to change at an increasingly fast pace. The internet, of course, had everything to do with the continual change we see from year to year.
From the advent of the ad banner to pop ups to email to social media to programmatic to performance marketing and everything in between, advertising is decidedly not in Don Draper’s wheelhouse any longer. Some pine for the good old days. Most welcome the ability to launch finely-tuned advertising programs that are, for the most part, entirely measurable and far more financially sound.
For an advertiser looking to engage in performance marketing, the affiliate space, traditionally, has been messy. Disparate affiliates, networks, OPMs, service teams, software providers and compliance/brand monitors all vie for the attention of the advertiser who may also be working with other marketing partners such as an advertising agency or a SaaS-based marketing solution.
In a Business Week article last year, Zeke Faux wrote, “It was a Davos for digital hucksters. One day last June, scammers from around the world gathered for a conference at a renovated 19th century train station in Berlin. All the most popular hustles were there: miracle diet pills, instant muscle builders, brain boosters, male enhancers. The “You Won an iPhone” companies had display booths, and the “Your Computer May Be Infected” folks sent salesmen. Russia was represented by the promoters of a black-mask face peel, and Canada made a showing with bot-infested dating sites.”
While that viewpoint may be a bit jaded and amped up to adhere to today’s sensationalistic media requirements, that element of affiliate marketing has been, and still is, present in many channels, affiliate included. The good news is that we see this element fading into obscurity more and more every day.
Over the past few years, the affiliate marketing ecosystem described in the Business Week article, has been increasingly outshined by an overwhelming trend of maturation occurring within the performance marketing space. What used to be a guy in his garage/basement selling ringtones has matured into multi-billion-dollar businesses which understand, facilitate and profit from the naturally inherent benefits of performance marketing; namely that it’s nearly risk free in the sense that, for the most part, money doesn’t exchange hands unless a business outcome is achieved.
Many brands and their marketing partners have embraced affiliate marketing for the operating leverage it creates and are increasing their commitment to performance marketing strategies that heavily emphasize the principles of the “new affiliate”. What is the new affiliate, you ask?
The new affiliate, is defined by transparency, brand safety, flexibility, and a data-driven approach to optimizing the channel’s contribution to overall return on ad spend. Whether being managed by and in-house team leveraging a SaaS platform, or via managed service provided by an OPM or a full-service provider, advertisers embracing the new affiliate are finally realizing the potential of the category. Content and messaging are fine-tuned on the fly based on what’s working and what’s not. Ads and content are tailored based upon the unique and individualistic nature of the affiliate’s followers’ interests. That cannot be done through programmatic or, for that matter, through Google or Facebook.
These new affiliates provide individualized optimization. There is a natural vetting of promotional offers because these are closer to the customer (their followers) and their own success is based on minute adjustments made to individual campaigns to improve results. Because when results improve, so does the affiliate’s bottom line.
As this ability to fine tune messaging through new affiliates has emerged, so have new platforms that bring together the many, previously disparate, elements of affiliate campaign management providing advertisers with, in a sense, a white labelled network built specifically for the individual advertiser based on their target audience and overall business goals. Rather than cobbling together solutions from disparate providers, these new platforms handle everything from affiliate discovery, recruitment, attribution, commission, fraud prevention and payment as well as strategic recommendations and optimization.
It’s no longer about the advertiser paying to access a network or for an affiliate DSP. It’s about building a private performance network for them.
Using this new type of affiliate lifecycle management platform, a major retailer who partnered with Pepperjam was, within a six-month period, able to increase year-over-year sales 8.2% and decrease commissions by 1.7%. The client effectively increased their top line and managed to grow their ROAS in part to the KPI goal tracking and Dynamic Commissioning tools available in the platform, which helped them save time and money.
For us, it’s now about providing a complete and flexible performance marketing approach that does not focus on the ill-conceived last-click and is not dominated by disparate solutions that an advertiser must cobble together to get a clear picture of their performance marketing efforts. No. It should be all about setting an advertiser up for overall success in the performance marketing space.