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Chris Bishop, 7thingsmedia

Chris Bishop, 7thingsmedia

Age: 28

Education: Degree in eBusiness at University of Central Lancashire – 2002-2005

Role: Founder & Managing Director 7thingsmedia

A proud Boltonian, Bishop's first foray into the online world came in his teens when he set up an alternative website for fans of his beloved Wanderers. By 17 he ran his own football websites, one of which won a lucrative five-figure advertising campaign with Hyundai.

“I remember being invited to meet Hyundai's marketing team and was passed on a location to drive to... I think it surprised their marketing that I wasn't actually old enough to drive.”

Drumming up attention for his fledgeling businesses was a family affair with friends and family helping to flyer and sticker at the Reebok Stadium on matchday. That same everyone mucking in ethos is recognisable today in 7thingsmedia, Bishop's London-based Performance Marketing agency.

The company's second birthday brought 2010 trading to a successful close, marking an increase in turnover, impressive client wins, and the opening of a New York office to enable their roster of brands to hit the US market.

Bishop has always made a career of finding a new way and seizing on the shortcomings of the status quo to surge ahead. On paper 7thingsmedia shouldn't have worked. He created and self-funded an agency during a recession at the tender age of 26, the raison d'etre of which was to middleman relations between brands and the affiliate channels; a mostly untested paradigm.

“I have always had the drive to set up my own company and do things the way I think they should be done. I am an absolute believer in the idea that if you aren't in the job you want then invent it!”

An eBusiness Education

Looking back, that entrepreneurial spirit was stirred in his teens but tempered with early exposure to affiliate marketing. Rather than diving straight in – as many self-starters do – Bishop opted to take time out to study his trade.

“I saw University as a must-do. Besides the academic qualifications to help you succeed in your career, the life skills are ultimately what will make you win in life.”

He was one of a select group who studied the nation's first eBusiness degree course at the University of Central Lancashire which acted as springboard to his first job after graduating. As part of the course, Bishop worked a placement year at Johnson & Johnson where built good contacts with both Google and TradeDoubler; the latter were impressed and offered the 22 year old his first real job.

Working for TradeDoubler

Within TradeDoubler's account management team, Bishop was positioned amongst employees with an early prowess in a blossoming industry; those who had profited from early affiliate websites. As TradeDoubler rose up the Affiliate Network power ladder, Bishop worked on premier accounts, including Screenselect (now LOVEFiLM), Apple and Littlewoods, but became wary of the detrimental impact on service as the company added more and more clients to its network.

His need to accrue more knowledge of online from new perspectives and wider angles was satisfied in a new role as Online Marketing Manager for Hotel Chocolat, where he was tasked with setting up full Ecommerce operations including acquisition channels and CRM (customer relationship management).

Hotel Chocolat

“I joined as the first dedicated digital employee and set up an Ecommerce team armed with best-in-class agency support relative to the marketing spend.”

During his two and a half years at Hotel Chocolat, Chris was responsible for building their online offering, team and agency structure. He was ultimately responsible for setting up all facets of the Ecommerce strategy and recorded impressive 400% sales growth.

Here Bishop worked closely with Hotel Chocolat founder Angus Thirlwell who's entrepreneurial drive and bullishness made a lasting impression.

But he was fast becoming an authority in the emerging affiliate marketing industry in his own right, later picking up a 2007 Commission Junction Europe personal award for “Outstanding Personal Contribution to Affiliate Marketing”. A speech at the Internet Retailing London event and Bishop hit the radar of House of Fraser, who had eyes on someone to head up their own online acquisition.

House of Fraser

A job in a similar vein to his previous employment, Bishop was brought in again to set up and scale the department store's Ecommerce channels for Affiliate, PPC and Search while ensuring brands within House of Fraser were controlled correctly within these marketing channels.

Brand prominence was a big objective for House of Fraser, and with Bishop's team in full operation, the affiliate channel became a prestigious place to gain prominence and added exposure.

His focus and enthusiasm for the channel was not immediately met by a House of Fraser hierarchy generally apathetic to affiliates as an important means of revenue.

“I was keen to bring an entrepreneurial spirit and drive to the new role at House of Fraser but I would watch eyes glaze over as I tried to educate the higher-ups about affiliates.”

Reputation of Affiliate Marketing

The reputation of affiliate marketing still plays on Bishop's mind today. A spokesperson for the industry to this day, he feels that knowledge of the channel – and role of the IAB Affiliate Council – amongst brands is too low.

“Typically when I'm speaking to brands they know very little of the IAB and the Council’s role in best practice. More education is needed, and quickly."

Having viewed the industry from all angles: agency and clientside as pitcher and pitchee, his tenure at House of Fraser came to an end; the time right to ready the contract entreprenuer for solo flight.

The Birth of 7thingsmedia

“I set up 7thingsmedia as the result of my frustrations whilst working client side: that agencies failed to understand my requirements. I felt a client-focused approach and mentality was key.”

Three years ago you'd have been forgiven basing a business on paid search; throwing money at Google was the order of the day. But amidst a recession and a changing affiliate landscape, Chris saw another unserviced opportunity – a gap in the market – to represent clients' performance online.

“Instead of pushing money down one spend-agenda route at a time, actually understanding the business objectives allowed a more bespoke approach to cultivate the correct marketing mix for the client.”

“Whereas many full service agencies have grown from the outside-in with regards to adding affiliate management as another level of service offered, we’ve done the opposite and complimented all the channels that are now falling under a CPA and expanded our affiliate offering into Performance-based management.”

Ever entrepreneurial, Chris Bishop and 7thingsmedia have identified key gaps in the mid-tier online service market they have on-board talent to plug, delivering significant sales growth for multi-channel retailers who previously had little understanding of the digital landscape, or were working with agencies who were unable to unlock their full potential.

“We've been able to quickly indentify we are leaders within affiliate marketing for fashion and retail based on some compelling campaign successes and subsequent business wins.”

The past year has proved to be a landmark one for 7thingsmedia; as the client roster has expanded significantly with the addition of “superbrands” such as Ted Baker, Agent Provocateur and Liberty. The business – already profitable from its inception – doubled it's 2009 revenue, expanded to a team of nine and celebrated the opening of a new international office in New York.

If there's a gap to plug in a brand's online expansion, or an opportunity to expand somewhere new, Bishop and his team at 7thingsmedia are rapidly gaining the reputation as one of the performance marketing agencies.

Would you like to be profiled on Affiliates4u? Contact Chris today to arrange.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

Content Director for PerformanceIN. Based in Bristol & London.

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