How have you found your time as Chair of the IAB's Affiliate Marketing Council (AMC) - What do you think has been the biggest topic of conversation for you during this time?
"Overall, I think I can look back and say that I have enjoyed the year as Chair but it has not been without its challenges and frustrations. If I start something I want to ensure that I always deliver above and beyond expectations but have to say that I’ve not perhaps done everything that I wanted to in the year. I think there are a number of reasons for that, the ePrivacy Directive demanded a lot of time and focus under very challenging circumstances and I don’t feel that the right support structure is there across the council and the IAB to get things done. We have the biggest council at the IAB yet our output does not reflect that.
"The biggest topic of conversation has quite easily been the eprivacy Directive and has really dominated the council in 2011. I think that we have worked well to get into a good position with this and as far as I am aware are way ahead of any other online sectors except perhaps the Behavioural sector whom really had no choice but to act quickly. We are now in a place where we have an initial plan which is approved by the IAB and ICO and I feel that we have really given the industry all of the information and advice that we have been able to. There are still a number of grey areas around this Directive but I think as a council we have worked through these and the output is where we need it to be."
How has the AMC decided to tackle this law and do you think this will remain an 'approved' solution by the ICO?
"We have published various pieces of information and advice for the industry to follow over the past 11 months. The next step now is that we are going to create a standardised piece of copy for affiliate sites that they can use on their sites to explain how and why cookies are being used and most importantly how users can opt out of cookies. It is really important that affiliates are aware of their responsibility to their users to be transparent about how they play their part in tracking a customer’s journey. We are also keen to develop this further by providing a website where consumers can find out more information about affiliate marketing and cookies if they require, this is likely however to be part of a wider online marketing information site. I would also like to see the IAB / industry start to promote the benefits of cookies to consumers and I think it’s important that all stakeholders lobby for this next year."
One of your aims following election to the position earlier this year was to 'pull our fingers out and get tougher and more pro-active.' - Do you think that was achieved this year?
"Sneaky, looking back at my manifesto and pulling out what I promised... you should be in politics!
"In terms of getting tougher, I don’t think it was actually necessary to do this this year as no major concerns arose. We did however release a number of best practice guidelines including one for Behavioural Targeting. I think this shows that we are being much more pro-active by setting out best practice and advice as these new areas emerge, this naturally limits the risk of any confusion later on so we don’t have to “get tough” as everyone is adhering to best practice guidelines.
"I still think we need to be far more pro-active as a council however to market ourselves. My biggest frustration is that I feel the industry could be securing bigger marketing budgets if we were to understand our channel better and innovate.
"I’d like to see agencies and networks really take on this role as everyone benefits from more income generation – networks, agencies, affiliates and advertisers. The key thing we took from the Advertiser survey (which will be published in the next few weeks) was that Advertisers are positive that they will spend more on the channel next year, so let’s take this and ensure that all Advertisers are spending their marketing budgets effectively by leveraging growth through the affiliate channel. In order to promote ourselves we need something to PR and we need to get better at doing this – look at the other industries such as social media, behavioural targeting, mobile and video, all much smaller in terms of revenue generated but they get far more headlines than us, just for being sexier.
"I’m glad by the way that you didn’t pull out my “make affiliate marketing sexy” from the manifesto! That’s one for the next Chair."
The last 12 months have seen many developments as a collaborative body, what was your most pleasing moment during your tenure as Chair?
"I’ve not worked network side for a few years so it was really interesting for me to see the commitments from the UK networks whom are really working collaboratively for the good of the industry.
"All that has been achieved this year could not have been without the networks taking a key role in the AMC, to name just a few stars of the year Kevin Edwards of Affiliate Window, Pete Berry of Affilinet, Peter Durham at Webgains (and Hero post her move to Lastminute), Nathan Salter at OMG and Florian Gramshammer at Commission Junction."
Is there anything you would have done differently this year?
"No, I never look back, what has passed has passed. I think we achieved what we could this year with the time and resource we had. I will naturally look back with frustration on the time and resource that myself and other members of the council could commit. I really feel that such a large council needs more of a full time resource allocated to it.
"The committee structure worked well, which was an expansion of what Kevin Edwards put in place last year but I think the idea of a steering committee in 2012 to support this is a really good initiative put forward by the IAB and would take the pressure off the next Chair."
Where do you see the key issues that will need addressing over the next 12 months?
"The EU Privacy Directive is heading closer to its deadline of May 2012 so no doubt this will be a big focus again in 2012. I’m also keen to see Advertisers taking a bigger role in the council and direction of the Industry and hope to launch an Advertiser Forum next year and also release the 2nd of the Advertiser survey which I hope will become a regular activity as it will glean some really interesting data about the growth of the channel."
Any advice for the new IAB AMC Chair (which will be at the council's first meeting in January) ?
"They need to ensure a good support network, whether than means simply being able to give up their time, changing the structure of the council or getting some of their colleagues to support them. It’s a challenging yet worthwhile role. Although I’m frustrated perhaps that I didn’t achieve everything I set out to, it was a learning curve and an exciting year. Most of all you get to work with people that are extremely passionate about the sector which is a real spur to get things done."