With over 15 years’ experience in the online advertising space, do you think we are closing in on the peak for affiliate and performance advertising?
Not at all. I believe that the market will continue to evolve but this distinction between affiliate/performance and display is misleading - the consumer couldn't care less. Relevancy and innovation - these things drive online advertising, and it doesn’t matter as to which metric is used.
Inventory is becoming ever larger while quality inventory becomes ever stronger; so long as the user is attracted, the impact of online advertising will continue to grow. I remember the days as Sales Director at DealTime when we sold clicks at £2, buying each one at 5 pennies and thinking we had it made. The content manager there knew better and quickly resolved to deliver the value that the sales team was clearly ignoring in return for a fast buck. It was quite a wake up call. Of course, DealTime went on to be hugely successful, though it must be noted, that was after I’d left!
Over the next year or so, we’ll see more consolidation in the market, not just in affiliate networks but also across the board. Innovation will play a big part in driving the quality of that consolidation. Opportunities will abound, but opportunistic acquisition runs out of steam without a grander plan behind the thinking. There’s more to it than just reducing the cost of back-office to squeeze a higher, short-term return.
AffiliateWindow’s recent acquisition of Buy.At puts them in a very good position; it’s potentially a great piece of business, although the hard work’s only just begun. I sincerely doubt that’s the end of the consolidation in this particular market though.
The TMN website states that email marketing accounted for 40% of your FY trading in 2008. There has recently been a lot of talk regarding the demise of email marketing, do you agree that email is on its way out?
Certainly not if we go by the sort of statistics that I'm seeing... Email remains the quickest, most effective way of reaching a mass of users. The same rules apply as in any advertising - relevancy, understanding the consumer and reason to receive and respond. Across all of our lists, we're seeing consistently strong trends in response and usage.
In the end, the proof is in the pudding - some very large advertisers opt with email as their first foray for a new campaign since it spreads the word quickly and drives huge, instantaneous traffic. Usage of email for this sort of communication is anything but dying - the ongoing list of advertisers who regularly use email as a display advertising medium would turn many publishers green with envy!
One of the great misconceptions of any type of performance based marketing is that it’s always more cost-effective. It’s not – I’ve seen returns on CPM that blows the CPA campaign out of the water. The risk profile is different, but the metrics don’t always come out with performance advertising as the best, well, performance.
This is why what we’re doing at TMN continues to excite me. We’re giving choice in metric to advertisers, we’re constantly striving for differentiation and we judge client-retention as a key measure of our success – a happy client is no different to a content consumer. Both become loyal and both value the experience enough to come back and continue to do business. And, let’s face it, a decent publisher or supplier is just as key as a repeating client.
What tips would you give to affiliates working with email marketing?
Simply put, email only really works well if the user has a reason to be receiving in the first place. It could be a straight reward structure, a commitment to or love of a brand, value in the regular content… More formally, ensure you're on top of your terms and conditions, ensure that you deal with unsubscriptions swiftly - there's no point in having someone on a database who doesn't want to be there - and do your homework as regards sending regulations and ISP requirements.
Your subject line should be thought of as part of the overall campaign, not as an afterthought; and conisider very carefully the size and look of images in various browsers. Basics - but most of all, give the database a reason to exist and make the advertising relevant.
The more information you can collect on your users, the stronger the relevancy and the response to the email campaigns and therefore the more value in the database.
After TMN acquired AffiliateFuture back in December 2007 it wasn’t long before the global economy faced the recession. Do you think your acquirement of AffiliateFuture has helped you to recession-proof the TMN holdings?
From the acquisition of AffiliateFuture through to the reverse-takeover with Progressive Digital Media, it was quite a roller-coaster ride. The biggest challenge to the display advertising channel - not just at TMN, but we were certainly impacted - was the sudden collapse in financial advertising. I was in consumer publishing throughout the 90s and never experienced such a sharp decline even then. AF had different challenges, but at least it was trading outside of that particular vertical.
From a structure point of view, the whole premise of TMN is that each of the companies in the Group is synergistical with the other – offering clients greater breadth, a quality in return for their business and, ultimately, a high quality service that spans channel and territory. I think that’s what ensured we were able to adapt and evolve, putting the clients’ needs up there with the consumers’.
We continued – and still do - to strive for the best service, the best results, from a very able and enthusiastic staff base. Some of the stuff these guys achieve is hugely impressive, we’re very fortunate to have some of the most capable experts in the industry working within the company – and it’s that, most of all, that makes a business “recession proof”.
What can we expect to see from AffiliateFuture this year?
Stability! We're now going through a project that will not only give us a better infrastructure but also the basis to grow our product-base of the business, both across verticals and landscape.
I love what AF have done with the travel search product, how it brings increased revenue opportunities to publishers and portals, and empowers a consumer. We’re lucky to have some of the finest people in the industry throughout TMN and their continued input and combined intellect mean that there are a lot of exciting things coming up in the next 12 months.
The biggest challenge there remains what to prioritise first – but, ultimately, you go back to basics, work it back from vision to current position and it helps define the path for you.
Finally, what are your thoughts on multi-channel attribution that is increasingly being discussed and utilised within the industry?
We’re working on a Research product that helps dig deep into the impact of channel-on-channel impact; it’s one of the most exciting products I’ve seen in some time and will assist our clients in generating increased returns by being able to measure various channels, both on- and offline.
We see TMN very much as a multi-channel provider so we’re keen to embrace the whole premise of multi-channel attribution. How this translates into the advertising world, and impacts areas such as affiliate though, remains to be seen!
Thanks to Mark for his insights - view his affiliates4u profile - Mark_S