We caught up with affilinet’s chief executive officer (CEO), Dorothea von Wichert-Nick, to discuss industry changes, trends, professionalism, and long tail opportunities across Europe.

Von Wichert-Nick, who is also hosting a strategically-led session on ‘Harness Intelligence, Technology, Creativity  and Quality to Achieve your Performance Goals’; at next month’s a4uexpo in Amsterdam, is in charge of strategy, innovation management, marketing, sales and customer service across the affilinet group.

Q: Do you think there is a growing trend whereby affiliates are becoming more professional?

DV: Definitely! I believe we have witnessed increased professionalisation in the performance market over the past few years for a number of reasons.
Firstly, new and innovative publisher models have entered the market place that are investing heavily in their technology platform and advanced data mining facilities. They’ve had to scale and internationalise rapidly in order to fund these investments and naturally this can only be done if publishers are operating as highly professional businesses.
There has also been a trend towards online publishers investing heavily in their own marketing activities and becoming brands in their own right. These strong brands are winning a higher share of natural search traffic and are rapidly building their own user communities, so advertisers are now turning to them as a way of broadening their reach and finding new customers online.
Finally increasing legislation, in the form of local data protection laws and the EU ePrivacy Directive, has forced all players in the market to become more transparent, to focus on providing real value and it has actively encouraged them to be more proactive with their privacy policies. In my opinion, this is a positive move towards further professionalising the industry.

Q: What has changed in the way you work with premium publishers as they become brands in their own right?

DV: Naturally our partnerships and the way we work with all publishers is evolving on a continual basis. We are currently investing a lot of time in collaboration projects with premium publishers, particularly in the sharing of data to build greater understanding about the online purchasing journey, experimenting with highly specialised campaigns for individual advertising partners and we’re also working on some bespoke development projects. We also encourage those partners to actively approach us with new ideas beyond the traditional affiliate model, and are increasingly acting as a partner for both advertisers and publishers looking to work in the broader performance space. This collaborative approach and consultative mentality is something that we’ve been focusing on developing within both the publisher and advertiser teams within our business.

Q: Where do you see the opportunity for long tail across Europe?

DV: The long tail continues to offer a lot of unleveraged potential across Europe and this in itself is transforming our business offering. There are tens of thousands of highly attractive, often content-driven websites that advertisers could tap into to generate additional reach. This is something we’ve been looking at for quite some time. For example, the recent release of our dynamically-optimised ‘performance ads’ offers long tail publishers the opportunity to monetise their ad space in a highly efficient manner. It’s with these particular partners in mind that we’re continuing to develop our technology platform and our ultimate aim is to create a highly scalable platform that simply and efficiently integrates with both advertiser and publishers systems.

Q: What could the IAB Europe do more of to support performance marketing’s growth?

DV: As an industry I think we need to be smarter and work together to raise the profile and credibility of the performance marketing industry, and that involves international collaboration. The IAB UK have already made great inroads in demonstrating the value of the industry by publishing the Online Performance Marketing valuation study, and we’ve since experienced increased interest in the channel. I would like to see the same being done on a European level or at the very least through coordinated efforts across the different markets.
One of the biggest challenges to overcome is that performance is still failing to generate the same level of excitement or passion often associated with brand oriented marketing, which people as consumers have more affinity with. By changing the way we talk about the industry and making it more accessible to those around us we can start to address this challenge – naturally the industry bodies also have a large role to play here.

Q: What will be your network’s main focus for the coming years?

DV: There are lots of exciting new developments at affilinet across Europe. We are shortly going to be unveiling our new brand and as the key focal part of that we’re spelling out our new corporate strategy. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, so keep your eyes peeled for more news in the coming weeks!