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Interview with IAB AMC 2011 Chair Candidates

Interview with IAB AMC 2011 Chair Candidates

In the running for the 2011 IAB AMC Chair (following on from Kevin Edwards) are three candidates. Ewan Darby (Neo@Ogilvy), Helen Southgate (Sky) and Sanjit Atwal (TradeDoubler) have all answered our questions below.

Why have you put yourself forward for the IAB's Affiliate Marketing Council Chair for 2011?

Ewan Darby

Ewan Darby: The role of Chair requires someone with excellent affiliate heritage, a strong background of senior roles, an understanding of the wider communication and media industry with a vision for the future.

I have lead the affiliate team at Neo@Ogilvy for three years working on international business such as BA, Kodak, Sony and American Express, before which I was two years on business development at Affiliate Window. My media background also takes in market research with Nielsen, radio with EMAP and IRS, Press with Mirror Group and Thomson Newspapers and running a DR agency in London. My background in media and affiliate marketing means I am well placed to serve the industry in the shape of IAM AMC Chair.

A great debt of thanks is owed to both Matt and Kevin for the stellar work they have put in to the role; and I am eager to continue delivering the excellent results they began by encouraging a more strategic focus of the AMC built on the foundations of compliance and best practice guidlines.

Helen Southgate

Helen Southgate: I’ve been working in the affiliate industry now for 8.5 years and I’ve been going to the AMC council sessions for over 3 years. Anyone that has worked with me will know that I am extremely passionate about the industry and am a strong advocate of the value of this channel. I’ve worked agency side and am now working client side so have a good grasp on what really does work in this sector, the issues that we currently face and the challenges that we will need to overcome in the future.

I feel that the affiliate channel is at a crossroads and as an industry we need to take the initiative to really prove the channels worth in order to secure a successful future.

Sanjit Atwal

Sanjit Atwal: First of all I want to say that I feel Kevin did an excellent job in 2010 and the next Council chair is going to have a tough time following him! I think that if you look at the calibre and pedigree of the candidates that are standing for 2011 you will see a testament to that fact that the job has a definable remit and this is down to both Kevin and Dan Redfearn at the IAB.

After everything the council has managed to achieve over 2010, we have managed to build up an excellent head of steam heading into 2011 and, given the major talking points coming up, we will need every bit of that steam to carry us through the year. For me personally, it would be an honour to take a leading role in the industry that I love and I’ve got quite a few ideas I would like to share on where I feel we need to move forward for everyone’s collective benefit.

Those of you that know me probably know that I wouldn’t be throwing my name into the hat if I didn’t feel I could make a discernable and positive difference.

What was a personal highlight for you in 2010 regarding the AMC?

Ewan Darby

Ewan Darby: The Foundations of affiliate marketing are secured with policies initiated, guidelines on best practice published and erroneous activity all but a localised network condition.

Affiliate Marketing is now a respected channel with fewer wayward affiliates thanks to the diligence of networks and attention of the council’s committees with better monitoring, control and understanding of affiliate practice. The volume of people from varying disciplines – affiliates, agency, networks and especially greater client involvement reflecting the importance of the channel.

The IABs work this year has spread beyond our own boarders and there are now many countries looking to the AMCs work to replicate in their own countries.

I question how much more compliance work can or needs to be done. I believe we now need to take the AMC to the next level of understanding the true value and incrementality of the channel.

Helen Southgate

Helen Southgate: The way that the key networks in the UK have got together and are working collaboratively.

This has been possible through the passion of the people at the AMC working network side and a realisation that collaboration is the key to moving forward. A good example has been the voucher code best practice development and enforcement; I think this really showed the industry that we meant business!

Sanjit Atwal

Sanjit Atwal: There were quite a few highlights but if I had to choose it would be the regulatory sub-committee meetings and the co-operation between all member networks. In an industry such as ours it’s crucial that all major bodies have a cordial relationship and it was encouraging to see this in practise to help achieve a number of targets throughout the year.

What do you feel the IAB's Council needs to achieve in 2011, What do you think are realistic targets and how could you as 'Chair' help to steer the council's productivity?

Ewan Darby

Ewan Darby: The foundations of compliance and best practice have been laid and policies established under Kevin’s leadership. There are intricacies that need to be ironed out but what’s next?

The buzz word of the past year has been ‘value’ but that means different things to different people. What is value and how do we measure it? There are various technologies to highlight the metrics each paymaster demands. But do we even want to measure value?

Typically affiliates have skirted around the edge of whether they want to dip their toe in the water, but now it is essential that they do. The conversation has moved on and affiliates will be increasingly excluded from discussion about value, CPAs and customer journeys unless they are encouraged to take part in the council meetings this year. Their input is vital and I am eager to encourage more affiliates to take part.

Clients want more justification around positive results. We need to take positive results one step further and prove the value affiliates add. To do this, we must agree on metrics, comparisons with other channels (digital and off-line) and the impact affiliates have in the entire value chain.

During 2011 I would develop strategies to achieve the following:

  • Client education into the role of affiliates in the marketing mix now that we have established a reliable source of affiliate traffic
  • Empowering affiliates to generate sales that are both incremental and valuable to the client
  • Educating merchants on how to optimise affiliate traffic to suit their wider strategic goals
  • Customer journey transparency and the role of affiliates in the incremental path to conversion

How are you going to achieve this? Looking at what some networks and agencies have achieved with a more strategic presence and approach as well as gathering merchants’ case studies to share best practice and define value as an authoritative entity.

I want to see the IAB AMC setting the standard for best practice among affiliates / agencies / networks / merchants alike driven by the committees comprised of the excellent talent we have in the industry.

Helen Southgate

Helen Southgate: Ok, I’m going to get right to the point here. As an industry and as a council we really need to pull our fingers out and get tougher and more pro-active. The affiliate industry still has a bad reputation within a lot of online circles and we need to do a much better job of promoting the successes and justify our presence in the online mix.

We need to pro-actively start looking at the future of affiliate marketing and ensure that the channel has a secure future ahead as I honestly believe this is at risk if we don’t do anything. We have to get better at cracking down on bad practice, yes we have looked at voucher regulation this year but it needs to go a lot further than that from breaking terms and conditions to illegal activity – all of which still happens and I see little work being done to stamp this out. We need to prove the value of the channel, through working with clients to provide case studies and through new ideas and innovation. We need to be looking at the role of affiliates in the wider online mix and I think the IAB council needs to lead this. Clients are constantly questioning the value of their online marketing channels and I am frustrated that the affiliate channel isn’t getting its voice heard.

Being client side I believe that I am in a good position to be able to step out of the affiliate channel and see the bigger picture which I think is really key to driving the council forward. I think we can be guilty of being stuck in an affiliate bubble and I think I can bring a different perspective than what has been seen at the AMC previously.

Sanjit Atwal

Sanjit Atwal: There are a number of key needs the Council should be addressing and the largest potential issue will certainly have an impact onto our industry this year – the EU Cookie Regulation. Due to come into effect on the 26th April of this year, this thorny discussion we will need all of our efforts to ensure it is addressed correctly as the entire industry will be looking to the IAB AMC for leadership and direction.

Another point may be contentious but needs to be discussed - fully outlining the responsibilities of affiliates in 2011. I spent a majority of 2010 rebuilding the TradeDoubler Publisher Team so I know as well as anyone what affiliates go through to get their businesses off the ground and, key to that fact, is ensuring they have a trusted voice when needed (both within an Affiliate Network and with the Advertisers/Agencies running affiliate activity). Now, in 2011,one of the keys to bringing more budget to our industry will be a professional approach from all affiliates in the UK and, as more advertisers accept affiliate as a cornerstone of their online marketing activity, we need to show why we warrant the budgets they are spending. This may come in the form of regulation, best-practises or how traffic is acquired (for example, working to reduce the reliance on Google through Social Media).

We also need to accept that some affiliates have grown into very large organisations – I feel it is imperative that the AMC builds trust with these companies to ensure that understanding exists on both sides.

From the advertisers side, we have seen over 2010 the effects the recession has had in affiliate marketing (i-Level & DGM are notable casualties) and 2011 will very much be about affiliates looking to networks and agencies to safeguard commissions. This, first and foremost, comes from commitment by the advertiser. A greater promotion of affiliate marketing internally at large advertising organisations would help greatly and is certainly on my agenda for this year if elected.

The final point is the impending ASBOF levy which both Affiliate Networks and Agencies may be required to facilitate. Again, this is a process that needs careful co-ordination and the upmost in communication as many companies will be looking to us for guidance.

I think that targets are probably difficult to set at this moment – that’s not to say I am shying away from an agenda, its more to do with what agreed targets we set together as a council after the agenda has been outlined. My background comes from understanding how to lead a top team – this is a trait that I’m looking to bring to the table for the AMC in 2011 to increase productivity of the council.

In what areas do you think the Council under-achieved last year and why do you think that was?

Ewan Darby

Ewan Darby: I have said before that 2010 needed foundations to be laid in the form of guidelines and policies but with that hard work done, we must capitalise on it through PR and wider ndustry visibility such as a greater A4U presence, wider engagement with cross channel industry bodies like the IPA, DMA etc. Affiliate Marketing is starting to feature more prominently in the trade publications like NMA and Campaign, so having an authoritative voice is crucial as our profile grows.

This means we need to see the bigger picture – helping take affiliates to the next level within media, advertising and the communication and acquisition chain.

Helen Southgate

Helen Southgate: I don’t think we tackled the issue of the affiliate channels media representation and we focused too much on smaller issues without looking at the wider concerns within the affiliate channel. The small issues are important but now I think there needs to be a clear focus on where we want the affiliate channel to be at the end of 2011 and how the IAB can support in driving this.

Sanjit Atwal

Sanjit Atwal: Underachievement probably isn’t a word I would have chosen to use! Given that we all devote time above and beyond our daily jobs (which all serve the industry regardless) it would seem churlish to assume that any efforts have not helped in at least in some slight way. Having said that, I do believe that in a wider context we need to up the marketing and PR that our industry receives. A major part of what I am looking to achieve will come from ensuring Affiliate has the same voice as other, perhaps more widely adopted, channels. Much of my work with the Digital Marketing Council stems from giving a fair introduction to Affiliate Marketing with a view to Marketing Managers allocating our industry as much budget as possible – I don’t see that ethos slowing down in 2011.

Finally, One key issue raised throughout 2010 was the lack of Affiliates in attendance. Do you think this is still an issue? If so, what would your measures be to combat this?

Ewan Darby

Ewan Darby: Big problems do not always require big solutions – they can be simple and effective. For example, I would ask key council members to send personal invitations to affiliates asking them to attend a session that addressed issues specific to them. An affiliate committee would provide the voice that some feel is missing and allow quality thought leadership and insight from affiliates.

Gaining affiliate feedback about their requirements, issues and agendas will also help set an agenda that supports their needs equally and foster an air of cooperation, support and growth.

Helen Southgate

Helen Southgate: A good number of affiliates attend the council now, there is usually representation from the likes of Nectar, Quidco, eConversions, Skimlinks and Top10 to name just a few. I think perhaps the challenge is that it is hard for a few affiliates that work in very different sectors of the affiliate channel to represent the views of all affiliates. I would perhaps suggest a nominated “voice” for all affiliates or perhaps even a spin off council of affiliates that discuss and raise their concerns / ideas. I actually think more concerning is that the that client side is under represented and would like to see a lot more representation from this side in 2011 as I believe they are key to driving a lot of ideas and actions forward as at the end of the day they hold the purse strings.

Sanjit Atwal

Sanjit Atwal: It’s an Interesting point as, speaking to my European colleagues, the UK IAB AMC currently seems to be bringing in more affiliate attendance than any other regular meeting in Europe! The point is taken though that we could (and probably should) be attracting many more publishers to the table. I know that the idea of video conferencing has been discussed – this would certainly help the situation as we do need to recognise that London is not the be all and end all of the affiliate world.

I am probably quite lucky in that three of my team are based in our Telford office so I am regularly travelling outside the M25 for business so would be happy to coincide these visits with an update for affiliates in the midlands (and surrounding areas) if needed. As already mentioned, my previous roles have all been along the publisher side of the business so I’m sure 2011 will herald increased publisher engagement.

Find out more about the IAB's Affiliate Marketing Council.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

Content Director for PerformanceIN. Based in Bristol & London.

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