What has changed in the Netherlands’s affiliate space since a4uexpo Europe was last in the country?

A lot has changed since the last a4uexpo Europe was here. The market has grown significantly.

During my time as owner of Imbull.com, I’ve seen affiliate networks merge like when Zanox acquired M4N to become a giant in the Dutch market. It’s especially large in the verticals of fashion, retail and finance. The German Affili.net acquired the Groningen-based affiliate network, Cleafs.

Besides the mergers there have been a lot of management changes as well.

Regarding the market in general, it’s beginning to become more professional. However it’s still behind the UK market. We are getting there and every affiliate is now trying to lift their projects to a new level.

What will be the biggest challenge for Dutch affiliates this year?

JV: Quality. It’s the one and only challenge affiliates will have to face. Personally I think affiliate marketing will make significant changes in the next few years.

A few affiliate networks are still living in 2009, where they made money out of ringtones and unknown traffic sources. Google and the advertisers will punish publishers without the added value. If an advertiser doesn’t want to be on the sites in your network or doesn’t know them, good luck surviving the next few years.

For publishers this means more focus on acquiring the likes of profiles, people, members, emails and getting your websites in front of the right people.

How does it feel to have a4uexpo Europe back on your doorstep?

JV: It’s really great. The timing couldn’t be better.

The affiliate marketing industry is getting stronger again after a tough year and a lot of international companies have offices in the Netherlands.

Amsterdam is really becoming an important hub in affiliate marketing. Also the place you’ve chosen as the venue, The Okura Hotel in the Netherlands, is simply awesome. I have to advise everyone if they are coming over to this hotel to book tables in the restaurants in advance.

How does the Netherlands compare to the UK when it comes to self regulation?

JV: Bad in my eyes. The IAB in the UK really brought quality to the UK market.

In the Netherlands you have two ‘regulatory’ groups: the IAB NL, which is not so prominent in affiliate marketing and the PAN (all affiliate networks combined). These two have not yet brought the market to the next level. I wish they would both realise how important quality and self regulation is going to be in the future. Sitting there and not daring to move on would be a mistake.

More international companies are launching in the Netherlands, do you think the country’s affiliate industry is becoming saturated?

JV: Yes I do think so. I would not advise other companies to enter the Netherlands right now unless they differentiate themselves in terms of publisher, advertiser and network. Maybe on mobile there is some space, but we are not as advanced as the UK just yet (on the mobile & online shopping combination), so don’t expect huge turnovers in that market.

Although, there is always space for innovation and new cool things.