Called “one of the most passionate and hardest working” in UK performance marketing by fellow practitioners in the affiliate space, armed with knowledge and experience of the channel that’s “hard to equal”, it seems a sit down with Julie Wood, now partnerships manager at TradeTracker, is somewhat overdue.
In light of her recent move to the global performance marketing network, we caught up with Wood to discuss the move, gather her unique perspective on the industry, and her takeaways from Performance Marketing Insights: London this year.
Julie, for those unaware of your background, can you tell us a bit about your career within the performance marketing industry?
Julie Wood: In 1998, Doug Roach, my old director, got in contact with me whilst I was at PolyGram International. He had invested in three new startups, one of which was myTaxi which was one of the first publisher propositions in the newly formed affiliate channel. I'd say I was hooked after that. MyTaxi was sold to Affinity, who went on to create a tracking solution called The Affinity Affiliate Resource Centre.
In 2003, I moved to another company in a pokey little office in Deptford, after being contacted by Kevin Brown, who was the founder of a new network known as Affiliate Window. I was the original account manager and worked alongside young talents like Mark Walters [now zanox CEO], Adam Ross [now zanox COO] and Anthony Clements [now country manager for UK at Affiliate Window].
As the company grew from having 15 people to bringing on clients such as Screwfix, Vodafone and IWantOneOfThose [IWOOT] my account list did too. My most memorable day was on December 10, 2007, when the IWOOT programme turned over six figures. I quickly became known as ‘JWOOT’.
After around eight years, Affiliate Window grew into the organisation that stands today. I was pleased to be part of the initial roller-coaster and team that were part of such a rich history.
In 2011 I was approached by an emerging affiliate network called Webgains where I was asked to set up their publisher services team. Along the way I nurtured relationships with the key publishers, driving revenues, and had the opportunity to meet new sites including SmarterClick, TBSeen and Voucherbox.
So how has this all led to your recent posting at TradeTracker?
JW: After Webgains I worked as a freelance contractor, where I was approached by Ennis Al-Saiegh from SmarterClick and worked for TBSeen during its launch phase. SmarterClick has now gone on to acquire Media DNA and has become one of the success stories of new and innovative technology in the affiliate space, dealing in overlays and programmatic display.
Founded by Kate Thornton, TBSeen.com is a state of the art shopping platform that is driven by celebrity based editorial and personalised member savings. As partnership manager, I developed relationships with all the major networks and advertisers.
Working publisher-side gave me massive insight into all the networks in the industry, their platforms and people. Kate herself once referred to me as ‘the popstar of the affiliates.’ Coming from the original X Factor host, this was a great honour indeed.
While working freelance for a year, and once my agreements had been fulfilled, I found myself missing working network-side and was contacted by Mark Batchelor from TradeTracker [Affiliate Window alumni in his own right] who introduced me to Philip Keckeis - director of international operations at the group.
Phillip and I reflected for some time on our thoughts on performance marketing, technology, and the UK market and I started to feel more than ever that working at TradeTracker would be an ideal fit.
I was so impressed with the platform and what was in the current pipeline I couldn’t help but get excited about leading the roll-out to the publishers and partners I have built such close relationships with over the span of 17 years.
The affiliate industry comes under scrutiny, perhaps most often by its own members. What do you see as the industry’s ‘pain points’?
JW: One thing that separates affiliate from the other channels is the relationships. It’s a people-driven environment where the individuals make a massive difference in every aspect.
As the industry continues to evolve, sometimes I feel like this aspect is being forgotten as the new generation arises. This is something I will continue to champion in my day-to-day activity, for the people I work with and at TradeTracker.
I think that over the years you find that you can’t keep everyone happy and we must work to a resolution. Merchants are more interested in learning more about their customer journeys and people are looking beyond the ‘last-click wins’ model. Tools like the TradeTracker's conversion path tracking present an opportunity for deeper insight and highlights the value of all publishers involved in the user experience.
Are these areas that you’ll be able to make a direct impact on within your position at the network?
JW: With my experiences of the different networks, working publisher-side and through the relationships created, I feel like I have a solid understanding of how to build partnerships. I’ll definitely be bringing my signature stamp to TradeTracker.
When talking about growing trends in affiliate, people often point to content and influencers, as well as moves away from last click. From your personal view, where are we likely to see the channel heading in 2017?
JW: At PMI: London last week, attribution again was a hot topic. It was commented that 2017 will be the “year of attribution” in the affiliate channel. One expert panel said, “change is good - but who will go first?”
There still seems to be an element of uncertainty about how things will play out, but I think the main question that we can look at in the ‘here and now’ is the knowledge and data insights of the individual publishers in the user journey, and what effect they are having on overall campaigns. Now that we can see that, it is the first step to answering the ongoing debate that has been raging for years.
Based on your wealth of experience, what shreds of advice would you hand down to an account manager just starting out in the industry?
JW: For me it’s all about service; building the partnerships between advertiser and publisher. Consistency will lead to understanding the campaign. When you have a greater understanding of the publisher business and their partners, this will allow you to add value and scale up accordingly.
The main advice I would give is to know your partners well, have regular meetings - whether it’s formal or even a lunch date of a networking meeting. Don’t be afraid to try new things and see what works best. When you find something that works well, make sure you share it with your colleagues.
With TradeTracker a key partner at this year’s Performance Marketing Insights, what were your main takeaways from the event’s agenda?
JW: I spent most of my time on the TradeTracker stand catching up with some old faces and meeting new partners. I had back-to-back meetings both days including lots of foot traffic. By the end, I was completely shattered but it was all well worth it and completely invaluable.
I managed to get to a couple of seminars and had a front row seat for the “Consequences and Opportunities of the Affiliate Commercial Model”, where it was interesting to hear all the different perspectives from networks, publisher and advertisers.
The highlight of the event for me was just being back in the thick of things. It was my first month at TradeTracker and being back network-side, and what a way to kick things off at PMI. The excitement of doing what I love doing is encapsulated by meeting and greeting all my colleagues and friends that I’ve met over the years.