With entries open for October’s inaugural International Performance Marketing Awards, this series looks back at the winners of the Awards’ UK ceremony in April, gathering insight into the mechanics and inspiration behind the industry’s newly-decorated campaigns and companies. 

Today, we’re talking to Owen Hancock, director of client development for CJ Affiliate by Conversant, this year’s winner of the Best Managed Affiliate Programme award with TUI at the Performance Marketing Awards 2017

First of all, let’s have a recap. Could you give us a quick overview of the campaign that won you an Awards?

Owen Hancock: Winning the Best Managed Affiliate Programme is all about a continuous attitude to affiliate marketing rather than an individual campaign. In previous years, CJ and TUI have worked tremendously hard to grow content with great success, but this year the programme’s success was born from creating a new single metric to holistically measure the performance in affiliate, and subsequently using this to both allocate budget more effectively and bring in new budgets.

Tell us about why your campaign pushed boundaries within this specific category…

OH: The beauty of the team’s new mechanism for valuing affiliate is how it combines a complex and nuanced array of different inputs to offer a single, simple measure. There have been many attribution mechanisms over the years but very few have offered transparency to publishers and in turn, advice on how to spend their own marketing budget. Being able to suggest to publishers that they could have more of an impact on driving value through their own homepage placements rather than on Facebook campaigns, for example, was a major step forward in how we work as a collaborative industry.

How do you see this particular area developed within the last 12 months, and how did your campaign reflect this? 

OH: Affiliate marketing is a growing sector, with more and more publishers and advertisers entering the channel each year. But the most successfully managed programmes are always those which have the best partnerships. You need to be transparent and open about what you want and why you make your decisions, then people can work with you to maximise value. For TUI and CJ to continually perform at the top of the industry we’ve needed to integrate concepts, data and people throughout the two businesses – it’s the transparency offered here which is really marching forward in recent times and allows us to continually optimise our work with publishers.

Tell us about why your client chose you for this campaign and how the initial conception of the campaign came to fruition…

OH: CJ and TUI have partnered for over a decade with continual growth and improvement over the years. The reason that TUI continues to work with CJ, however, is the constant innovation we drive, which in turn allows us to drive more and more affiliate value. Continually being able to adapt to drive value in new ways, either for different goals or different parts of the business, means that we’ve stayed at the top of our game over the years. Right now, we’re getting a great deal of feedback that it’s our ability to drive success with content publishers, alongside data insights which make us stands out from the rest of the market.

If there is one particular part of the entire campaign that you believe your company has done better than anyone else, what would it be?

OH: As we’ve alluded to already, I feel like where CJ really stand out and drive the industry forward is with the level of communication across myriad functions at a multitude of businesses. At TUI, working with publishers, agencies, different channels and across the TUI analytics team has meant that we have improved our understanding of factors that influence affiliate success – success as competitor activity or above the line pushes – and also feed this back to each of the respective teams, paired practical and actionable advice. Data is imperative to our success, but it is valueless without action.

What was the hardest part of executing this campaign successfully?

OH: The crux of many an affiliate campaign involves being able to make the right decisions, fast. But dealing with delays in attribution of value creates a degree of delay which oftentimes has to be compensated for in order to ensure performance. The campaign with TUI was one of these instances, as the strategy focussed on responding to data and a nimbleness in decision-making. Thankfully, in such instances we’re able to rely on a high degree of data insight, the team’s combined experience and ingenuity.

Time to be honest; where do you feel your campaign fell short of the mark, whether you overcame those hurdles in the end or not…

OH: Continuing on the above, the time period required to match actual remuneration to value creation can prove difficult when combined with the need for agility and quick decisions. Due to the nature of the industry, to work from genuinely accurate data, all networks have to deal with delays in attribution of final results. But that’s the nature of the game, and overcoming such hurdles is what makes a network stand out.

Ultimately, advanced data-insight, close monitoring of said insight, and informed experimentation allowed the team to first highlight, then scale value-creation at speed. Fast thinking paired with thorough industry experience further helped us to turn what could have been a negative factor in the campaign into a big positive.

Finally, what for you is the most exciting trend or development in performance marketing right now? 

OH: Personalisation. Personalisation in affiliate has got to quite an advanced state right now, combining publisher and advertiser data. Yet it’s still a relatively new solution within affiliate and is getting more and more advanced. I can’t speak for other networks, but in our case, we’ve kicked-off with a decade or so head-start by utilising our parent company’s audience map and individualised data. The end-result is pretty incredible really – a truly customer-centric, scalable solution offering relevancy of messaging to the consumer. That’s pretty exciting I think.

Entries for the International Performance Marketing Awards close July 4. Download the entry pack for more insight into the regional and channel-based categories that could see you, or your overseas teams, crowned international performance champions.