The Performance Marketing Awards celebrated its 11th-anniversary last night at the Grosvenor House Hotel (April 25), showcasing the best in performance marketing amid a record-breaking year.

Hosted with Impact Radius, the ceremony welcomed over 1000 guests into the Park Lane venue’s majestic Great Room, dressed under the theme of “illumination” and serving as an apt home for the night’s purpose: to shine a spotlight on the industry’s foremost leaders.

With £1.6 billion in spend generating close to £20 billion in sales, the 2017 running followed the highest-grossing year for performance marketing seen in the UK. As such, the level of competition proved it a painstaking task for the judging panel, and public, to select just 25 leading lights.

That full list of winners is now available to view and with the night behind us, PerformanceIN picks out a few trends that hint at the industry’s development since last year and direction for the remainder of 2017.

Digital meets physical

Connecting customers online and offline has been referred to as the marketer’s holy grail, and while achieving the elusive “single customer view” may still be some way off, examples from last night show that progress is certainly advanced.

There was evidence of this in the winning campaign for Best Content Marketing, with Debenhams and affilinet driving their affiliate programme into new territory thanks to a strategic partnership with Intu - the UK’s biggest shopping centre landlord – enabling them to push unique content and offers in-store, driving revenue and footfall to its client’s department stores as a result.

It’s also a concept behind Viant’s Marketing Cloud centred on “people-based marketing”, an alternative to the cookie. This took home the crown for Best Performance Marketing Technology, owed to the serious ground it’s making in allowing advertisers to understand consumers’ path to purchase across digital channels, as well as physically, in-store.

Affiliate evolves

The affiliate marketing industry is often accused of reluctance to innovate, but a number of winning campaigns demonstrated this is hardly the case. Button, a newcomer, collected Best Affiliate Marketing Innovation, offering a disruptive new revenue stream for mobile publishers such as Foursquare, Uber, Quidco through its deep-linking app-to-app commerce platform.

Looking at more established members, a collaboration between Awin and Vouchercloud pushed channel conventions with its use of chatbots and paid social for men’s fashion retailer Topman, landing it Most Creative Performance Marketing Campaign.

Affiliate practices were also seen among winning campaigns in traditionally ‘non-affiliate’ categories hinting that it’s breaking away from isolation as a channel, integrating with areas such as content marketing (affilinet and Debenhams) and influencer marketing, with Awin winning the channel award for the Hut Group’s, where it applied its long-tail payment-on-influence metric with great success.

A worthy mention from the night, Inflecto Media’s lead gen campaign for startup food delivery app Deliveroo proved an astonishing case study in CPI-based marketing, winning in both the Best Lead Generation and Best Mobile User Acquisition categories. Meanwhile, Awin returned in force to scoop Industry Choice of Network. 

Intelligent data-use

Being at the bedrock of performance marketing, it wasn’t a surprise to see data-use playing a key role again this year. However, it was data’s power in automation, decision-making, and intelligent targeting that characterised its presence this year.

The award for Best Use of Data itself was handed to Topman for its entirely internal use of data and resources to master personalised communications to customers across a range of channels, driving hundreds of thousands in revenue and demonstrating how performance continues to permeate with mainstream advertisers.

Behind a number of winners, automation is becoming the norm, in part owed to the proliferation of automated ad bidding. Rocket Fuel Group received Global Excellence for its Kaspersky Lab programmatic campaign. Meanwhile, Most Effective Use of Programmatic went to MEC for Vodafone, stripping back an already highly-successful partnership to push the most marginal of year-on-year gains.

Winning the Best in Finance vertical award, agency Maxus created its own ‘SmartData’ visualisation platform for client Barclays, allowing it to compare real-time campaign performance across all channels and products, keeping the bank’s marketing agile throughout the year.

Performance hitting home

With a number of new brands entering the fray amid another landmark year in terms of spend and revenue, it’s clear performance marketing – whether that’s affiliate, programmatic display, paid social, or otherwise – is now considered a core part, and in some cases majority stake, of advertisers’ digital marketing strategies.

The quality of campaigns produced by last night’s winners, and highly-commended alike, for big-name brands shows results-based strategies becoming go-to. In many cases, performance marketing formed the majority of advertisers’ digital spend, suggesting that the industry has matured into a core consideration for marketers seeking the benefits of ROI-led strategies. This wider adoption is of little surprise, given that UK performance marketing now generates £12.30 for every £1 spent.

Do you agree with these trends or did you spot something else among the 2017 winners? Share your thoughts with our readers in the comments!