Performance Marketing in 2011: Mobiles, Cookies, Panda and Legislation

4 years
    Press Release

January

Xmas sales for 2010 were blown away in comparison to the impending change in VAT, with one network recording sale values that were 63% higher on January 3rd 2011, double that of 2010’s peak trading day (December 6th 2010 – ‘Cyber Monday 2010’). Helen Southgate was elected to the role of IAB Affiliate Marketing Council Chair after beating Ewan Darby and Sanjit Atwal to the post, replacing Kevin Edwards.

There was also the introduction of the ASA’s CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) Code and how it would affect the Affiliate Marketing industry. It turned out to be a tame implementation, compared to what was to come!

February

More legislation for another month, as the Consumer Credit Legislation launched on the 1st February, changing the way credit products are sold and managed to consumers, affecting compliance within PPC adverts or places where advertising space is limited. Panda update 1.0 began to affect the US, but it wasn’t until late March that the UK began to see significant changes. Plus one European Affiliate gave Advertisers 10 Tips to get Affiliates promoting your Affiliate Programme.

The first rumblings of the year in terms of mobile statistics within the Affiliate channel came to light, with Affiliate Window releasing mobile data totalling nearly 30,000 sales and creating more than £2million in revenue.

March

A rather ‘bombshell’ month for Affiliate Marketing, starting with the huge ‘Panda’ update across the UK and Europe, as Google’s algorithm change shocked many affiliates on our forum. Around the 24th March, posts such as ‘What’s happened to my site?’ , ‘Is this redirect warning part of Panda Update?’ and ‘Has Panda Killed Article Marketing’ became all too familiar as the SERPS were shaken for the first time in a long while.

With Behavioural Retargeting on the upsurge, A4u profiled Criteo MD Michael Steckler, getting his take on how Affiliates and Behavioural Retargeting can work well together. This year’s a4uAwards shortlist was also announced as entries for the ceremony surged by 75% compared to 2010.

March was also the month that the ICO released news of an impending amendment to the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, which became the start of serious discussion among the IAB’s Affiliate Marketing Council and beyond, as the industry looked to understand and find a solution for the impending cookie law.

Finally at the end of March, Commission Junction announced that Florian Gramshammer had been promoted to the UK Country Manager role, with aims to expand the Commission Junction portfolio.

April

As media partners for the UK Symposium, A4u attended the focussed LinkShare event in early April. As A4u founder Matthew Wood described the event as a ‘time to engage’, due to the sheer volume of quality advertisers in attendance, all of whom were keener than ever to engage with publishers.

Content monetisation took centre stage on A4u throughout April, with Q&A;’s by both Skimlinks and VigLink CEO’s Alicia Navarro and Oliver Roup, talking about the future of Affiliate Marketing through mainstreaming content monetisation, brand control measures and the intricacies of a startup.

The month of April also saw another new Network head being appointed, with Rob Wilson coming in to head up the UK & Ireland Operations as ‘Market Unit Leader North West’. Plus, in a rouse to diversify their Performance Marketing Offering, ValueClick announced the acquisition of Mobile Ad-Network Greystripe.

May

A4u began the month of May by profiling 7thingsmedia MD and Founder Chris Bishop, where we discussed Affiliate Marketing’s history of apathy amongst some big brands plus how more sector education is needed, and quickly.

Thanks also to Vicky Pester, Lowcost’s Head of Marketing (responsible for easyJet Holidays), who penned her opinion on ‘5 Reasons Merchants ‘Cull’ Affiliates & Why They’re Wrong!' which sparked a large amount of debate.

Other industry news saw the announcement of Top Cashback’s London Office, with the appointment of ex Affiliate Future director James Little, coming on board as Partnerships Director. We had also been busy here at A4u, following the launch of the inaugural A4u Performance Marketing Guide, a 140+ page document spanning all corners of Performance Marketing with content written by experts within their primary disciplines, supported by Commission Junction.

May was also the month that saw this year’s a4uAwards ceremony. At the most prestigious night in the Affiliate & Performance Marketing calendar, over 700 guests celebrated excellence and innovation within the industry which saw 25 winning and highly commended award entries rewarded at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane London.

Mobile adoption among affiliate marketing companies had begun to accelerate in May, with Quidco driving footfall into highstreet stores with their mobile application, and vouchercloud teamed up with Orange to offer exclusive mobile vouchers.

A4u also attended the TradeDoubler Summit at the British Film Institute as media partner – interviews, opening remarks and session videos are available on our media page.

June

At June’s IAB meeting it was announced that the ICO indicated they will be giving a 12 month grace period for companies to become compliant to the new EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive. We asked Helen Southgate, the 2011 IAB Affiliate Marketing Council Chair, whether enough progress had been made to accomplish the ICO directive when it becomes compliant in June:

“Industry wide, no I don’t think so. I think there are a number of reasons for this, one being that the direction given on how to comply has been sketchy at best, there is still a lot of confusion about what would be considered compliant and what would not and I don’t think there has been enough direction given to the industry to understand this.

“There has also been a lack of industry collaboration, people are not coming together to share ideas and solutions. For egyghjxample, in the Affiliate Marketing Council we have discussed this at length and are implementing a number of initiatives but I am not aware of any other actions coming out of other areas of the industry except of course for Behavioural Targeting which is an area that has been involved along with the IAB in this since the beginning and made some really good progress.

“I think it is also still felt by most people that the best solution to comply with this directive would be implemented at browser level but there is not much feedback about what is happening here, so relying on this would be very risky indeed.

“I also feel the industry should be doing a better job on promoting the use of cookies to consumers and explaining exactly why the use of tracking is actually beneficial in many circumstances to the user, such as remembering login details, being able to supply relevant communications etc. Take a look at Google’s current advertising campaign, we really should be following suit.

“So in a nutshell, I think the online industry has a lot of work to do but also needs more direction and support on how to comply. The AMC have worked hard to discuss and agree on solutions that work towards compliance, we have a 5 point plan and have met with a representative of the ICO to discuss our concerns / ideas. We hope to publish an update to this soon so keep an eye on www.iabaffiliatemarketing.com .”

There is also an ongoing thread on the A4u Forum regarding the cookie law.

Digital Window announced that the buy.at brand in the UK was to close, and that migration of buy.at’s UK programmes we undergoing migration to the Affiliate Window platform - “The acquisition of buy.at has been a huge success for Digital Window. With all teams and processes now consolidated and harmonised, the logical next step was to look at systems. Using the new CTS, a migration process that could sometimes take weeks or even months can be achieved in minutes. The best part being, we can do this without diverting the time and attention of our partners from growing their campaigns.” Said Adam Ross, COO

In other industry-related news, uSwitch.com acquired mobile comparison affiliate Top10.com in a deal that enabled uSwitch to compare prices across a broader range of products and services. Digital Agency Stream:20 also launched their European expansion by opening an office in Germany.

A4u were media and knowledge partners for NMA’s Online Marketing Show, producing Performance Marketing seminar content on behavioural retargeting, making sense of mobile and performance marketing client management.

July

Content monetisation coverage rose again in July, following the announcement of TradeDoubler’s exclusive partnership with Respond, a button solution that matches contextual call to action buttons with relevant content on the web. This was followed by the announcement that Skimlinks had acquired content monetisation firm Atma Links.

The next network management change appeared in July, with AffiliateFuture announcing senior management changes that saw Gavin Male come on board as Managing Director, plus a large organisational restructure. “There have been a number of challenges in recent times which, in hindsight, we may have dealt with in a more effective manner and the wider management experience of the new senior team will ensure that in future, potential issues will be dealt with in a more efficient manner.” said Gavin Male.

A4u, in association with Webgains, launched the results of their European Affiliate Marketing Survey, where over 1,000 affiliate respondents from over 30 countries Worldwide, the resulting report (free to download for A4u members) enables a better understanding of behaviours and attitudes across Europe.

Following a desire from Advertisers for us to release information to help them with recent Google Panda updates, we spoke to Mark Cann from Climb Digital SEO who created an ‘advertisers guide to SEO’ plus an intriguing article entitled ‘Pandamonium – Feed The Animal The Right Way’ – both are worth a read for Advertisers looking to improve their SERPS rankings.

Finally, in what was a busy month, guest poster Owen Hewitson released some opinion on the dilemma of single network vs dual network when either launching a new programme, expanding their activity or attempting to breathe new life into a programme.

The month of July also saw the first of A4u's latest series of vertical performance marketing events, with the launch of PerformanceIN Fashion & Beauty.

August

Interim reports were released for TradeDoubler and AffiliateFuture, with sales up 13% for TradeDoubler and Group Revenues up 11.6% for AffiliateFuture YOY.

Any good affiliate marketer thinks they understand their customers or website visitors, however the reality is far from this. Kelvin Newman from SiteVisibility explained why the ‘False Consensus Effect’ is costing Affiliate Marketers money in his opinion piece.

The big news for August within Affiliate Marketing was the acquisition of VoucherCodes.co.uk (and parent company eConversions Ltd) by voucher giants WhaleShark Media for a reported $40 million. Read our exclusive Q&A; with Duncan Jennings, founder of eConversions Ltd, regarding the sale.

Other news in the Performance Marketing sector for August included a hotly debated article on ‘Who has the right to play God in the ongoing attribution dilemma’, and we spoke with Linking Mobile founder David Fieldhouse, who gave some insight into current opportunities for Affiliates in the mobile arena.

September

The rise of Lead Generation was discussed in more detail with Sean Sewell from Performance Horizon, who detailed how the changing mentality of lead buying was having a positive effect on other performance channels, allowing the generating of leads to be mainstreamed. There was also a great thought piece by Guy Cookson at Respond on the demise of banner CTR’s, plus Mark Cann returned to create a great starter’s guide to Link Building.

More mobile related opinion in September, as the rise of Google Wallet in the US caused a stir among mobile voucher affiliates, as Google Wallet potentially presents affiliates with opportunities to demonstrate and increase their performance against other competing markets. This was closely followed by ‘The year of the mobile has finally arrived, but is everybody ready?’ , which heightened the need for Advertisers to get their mobile optimised websites ready for the impending boom in m-commerce.

Other Performance Marketing areas featured on A4u in September included a Product Feed 101 with FusePump, PayPerCall statistics from Commission Junction, Facebook Development News following the annual F8 conference, and Effectively Setting, Monitoring and Tweaking Commission Structures, from Matt Swan at Affiliate Window.

October

October began with the sad news of the late Steve Jobs. A pioneer to many, we compiled a list of posts from across the web, dedicated to Steve.

Rebranding was hot in October for agencies, and at A4u we conducted a Q&A; with Optimus Performance Marketing and Arena Media to discuss the intricacies and reasoning for rebranding to be placed within the performance market. This was followed by a Programme Management 101 Q&A;.

Big news from A4u was that we released our joint M-Commerce report in association with Affiliate Window & buy.at. Using network data we uncovered the current state of mobile marketing and m-commerce, including statistics, trends, considerations, opportunities and drawbacks that need addressing to fuel the recent m-commerce growth.

The benefit of second order links when working on your affiliate backlink strategy was discussed in detail by Kelvin Newman, plus A4u’s recent flagship event a4uexpo London took place in October where over 1,100 delegates came to Europe’s leading Performance Marketing Conference.

Other performance areas that featured in September saw the launch of SkimWords (following the acquisition of Atma Links in July) in the content monetisation sector, plus more Lead Generation education thanks to a Q&A; with LeadPoint’s Justin Rees.

November

Another big month within the Performance Marketing Channel for Networks, as TradeDoubler released interim figures showing a rapidly growing mobile channel, and an 8% rise in profits. Soon after it was announced that The Search Works assets at TradeDoubler were transferred to NetBooster to become their preferred search marketing partner. It was the same network that then announced a brand new affiliate scheme named The Zoo Project, which sees £1 million’s worth of business resources and industry mentoring being used to help new and entrepreneurial affiliates drive more business through the channel.

Affilinet also had big news in November. Following the release of a 20.7% increase in sales via their interim reports, Gary Bicker was appointed as new UK Country Manager following the open post that was left by former MD Pete Rowe, who was soon to join Markco Media along with Rob Berrisford as COO and CCO respectively.

The ‘future’ was clearly a discussion point for November across the realm of Affiliate Marketing. As Affiliates need to alter their offerings to ensure they stay coherent with Google and a final shopping destination, though pieces from Affiliate Mike Madew on ‘How to Survive as an Affiliate’ plus Calum Lewis’s opinion on ‘What does the future hold for Affiliate Marketing’ covers topics including Influence Marketing, Google vs Facebook and Mobile Adoption among others. We even had time to interview Jason Dale to get his thoughts on the current state of affairs within Affiliate World.

In other Performance Related news for November, Video Network Coull received a $2 million investment, The IAB’s Affiliate Marketing Council launched a behavioural advertising best practice guide, and Top CashBack launched in the US with the aim to rival the US’s cashback elite.

December

If you’re still with me – fair play! December has already seen a number of interesting developments on A4u, starting with Helen Southgate’s overview of her time as IAB Affiliate Marketing Chair in 2011, giving her thoughts on how she felt the year has been for the Affiliate Marketing Council, plus a look at what needs addressing in 2012.

Among the global pessimism, a few recent stories have emerged showing positive signs within the Affiliate & Peformance Marketing sector. A recent IAB survey showed that Advertisers will be looking to increase their budgets in Affiliate Marketing during 2012, plus TradeDoubler reported a strong start to Christmas trading across Europe.

Matt Swan delved into how reliable affiliate tracking really is, and A4u created ‘7 top tips for creating a mobile friendly affiliate website’ – which are both worth a read if you are actively working within the Affiliate Marketing channel.

Predictions for 2012

All in all, it’s been a progressive year for Performance Marketing as a whole, as many companies begin to adopt new technologies and utilise new channels, something I’d expect to continue throughout 2012 as m-commerce and mobile opportunities continue to evolve.

Affiliate Marketing is not so rosy, with many affiliates having suffered due to ranking changes, for it seems Google is trying to kill off the longtail and these affiliates are left fighting it out to earn a living. Have you been affected by Panda? What steps have you taken to combat this happening again?

What about you? What do you think will lie ahead in 2012?

Matthew Wood shares his personal predictions for 2012:

"The most significant trend will be the tremendous shift in power towards the very largest publishers driving the bulk of revenues for many advertisers, agencies and networks."

"These funded, often technology driven powerhouse publishers have become so incredibly dominant within the space that despite having good relationships with networks and agencies can bait and switch, or easily build relationships with the larger and pro-active brands direct – even bypassing the agency."

"Naturally this poses a dilemma. After a period where we have seen overrides squeezed by competitive market conditions. Could we see the same pinch occur in 2012, this time driven by incentive sites? Key therefore is diversification and spreading risk which may be to the benefit of smaller and mid tier publishers."

"Mobile will be pitched strongly with stakeholders keen to ensure revenue is not lost due to tracking tags not being installed on m-commerce platforms and applications. We’ll see a huge increase in applications bringing offline – online (and vice versa) through social media, photo recognition and GPS technology."

"Embracing technology will be the biggest opportunity. And as an Industry we have made very limited progress to ensure that the performance model gives technology driven start-ups an adequate ROI when set against other channels and opportunities."

"To invest in the next generation of publishers, incentives should be given by brands within performance marketing to encourage adoption and investment in the channel."