Coming up two years ago, I was in the very fortunate position to have a choice between two excellent business opportunities. The first was to leave Neo@Ogilvy where we had built a sizeable and successful affiliate marketing practice in the UK, and take a senior position within an international performance marketing company. The other was to move my family to the US with Neo and build the affiliate practice in North America and beyond. Like many, I have faced career choices in the past, but not where it involved an international move to a largely unknown market that affected not just me but my wife and children who’s own lives are all at critical stages. The UK job offer with the performance marketing company promised a significant opportunity too and made for a difficult decision to stay in the UK, or up sticks and move my family’s life to the US.
Having made the decision to move and tackle every aspect of what that means including Visas and passports, rental houses both sides of the pond, schools, commuting, UK and US taxation, cancelling Sky and signing up for cable, redirecting post, buying snow shoes and shovels, selling cars and leasing new ones, buying furniture, transatlantic shipping and a hundred other things now largely confined to history, there was the matter of how to go about establishing an affiliate practice in the US. Some 15 months down the line I can begin to reflect on the move, the business landscape, the oddities, the pleasantries, the opportunities, the bafflements and the hopes of transatlantic living.
Having arrived on Jan 1 2012 with my family joining 2 weeks later, I was holed up in a corporate apartment on 46th between 2nd and 3rd with a Deli, Pizzeria, Duane Reade’s and Best Buy all within a stone’s throw from my 16th floor pad. The office was across town on 11th so I got very familiar with mid-town as I walked to and from work in a desperate bid to counteract the effects of pizza. That first week I encountered culture shock for the third time, the first two being Egypt and India. I think it had something to do with the standard of driving…
Same, same but different
There is huge familiarity with New York, thanks to its constant appearance as a backdrop in film and television, commercials, album covers, printed and published media. Brands too cross the pond, so cars, mobile phones, clothing outlets, food, banks and everything in between display logos at home on Maine Street or the High Street. In Affiliate Marketing too there are the same networks – CJ, Linkshare, GAN, Webgains, Affiliate Window are all present and correct, although not all of them ever present in NYC.
Performance Marketing US style
Affiliate Marketing has similar challenges with so many familiar brands and organizations, but experiencing different challenges and hurdles. Certainly there is a healthy volume of new merchants to the US industry with micro-networks serving all manner of niche and lead generation requirements. At AdTech I was constantly accosted by people claiming to run the biggest US affiliate network working from stands the size of a tangerine box. These, it turns out are lead generation networks that bear little or no resemblance to the Affiliate industry I know and love. Moreover, there is little self-regulation beyond the principals individual networks elect to employ where the UK had both the IAB and A4U to encourage, cajole and sometimes force change for the better. Representation to State and Federal Government on matters affecting every player remains largely down to self-interested organizations to press the agenda.
During my first six months I frequently wondered what on earth I had done dragging my family here and feeling completely overwhelmed at the scale of my role at Neo. Six months in and the mist begins to lift, allowing some perspective on how the affiliate management expertise developed in the UK can fit within a North American model so unused to mainstream program management. It reminded me of the apocryphal tale of two shoe salesmen in the 1920s sent to an African country. _The first writes back to his boss after a month and says, “There’s no market here – no one wears shoes”. The second writes to his boss after a month and says, “There’s a massive market here – no one wears shoes”. _