When we talk about regulation and transparency within Affiliate Marketing ears become alert and shadows fidget nervously and uncomfortably.

In an ideal world an industry self regulates itself as all ethical stakeholders look to maintain the reputation and appetite for the core proposition, thus protecting their revenue lines and frankly future existence.

What will never change however is the rate of innovation within the affiliate and wider performance marketing industry by start-ups and entrepreneurs. This innovation continues to change the performance marketing eco-system, pushing to the market new technologies and value-add consumer propositions that embrace CPA across Web, Mobile and Offline.

As publisher models evolve the need to monitor and regulate their behaviour becomes even greater. It won’t just be about unauthorised paid search activity, coupon use or adware usage; we’ll no doubt see the increased use of Mobile, Gamification, Incentive and Social Media to drive sales for brands in alternative ways, whether disclosed, approved – ethical or not.

The question that continues to be asked is who should be responsible for regulation and more importantly transparency? – For me the answer is clear.

Affiliate Networks are the public face of our industry and therefore to brands investing within the channel. They have a duty of care for both Advertisers and Publishers. They are also (in conjunction with Agencies) the gatekeepers to the majority of relationships. Some well known networks lead the way in this respect. Following and contributing to best practice, fighting for change and standing up to dubious behaviour; they believe they are part of the chain for regulation and transparency.

Other networks have gone on record to state that regulation is not the role of the network.

As per my recent Podcast on Webmaster Radio I urge the current Performance Marketing Association (PMA) Head to reconsider and put Regulation and Transparency top of the PMA list to tackle during 2013.

The PMA is a fantastic organisation that deserves all our support as a voice for the channel we love. The results achieved with state tax and disclosure in the US is hugely impressive and commendable.

Only when brands feel 100% comfortable with the Affiliate Channel will we see additional budget assigned through an increasingly diverse array of campaign structures. In turn Affiliate Marketing will gain the professional reputation it truly deserves within the digital marketing mix.

Likewise, publishers deserve transparency around attribution modelling, de-duplication policies, retargeting use and declined sales to enable them to make an educated choice on whom to work with. This has to be the role of the Agency to feed into the Network and the Network to display transparently to Publishers.

Until this happens we will continue to see in some quarters a lack of trust. And collaboration and negotiation will continue to take place behind closed doors between an elite group of trusted stakeholders.

Perhaps you agree, or flatly disagree with me? Either way it would be great to hear your views on this key topic.