Members of the UK performance marketing industry gathered at the IAB UK’s (Internet Advertising Bureau) Covent Garden Training Centre yesterday (November 30) for the annual Town Hall meeting.

Led by the regulatory body’s Performance Marketing Council and hosted by the group’s senior mobile and video manager and head of industry initiatives, Mike Reynolds, the Town Hall provided a roadmap for the Bureau’s plans for 2018 and platform for members to discuss improvements and share concerns.

Having helmed the IAB for just shy of a year, CEO Jon Mew took to the floor early on to look back on digital advertising’s growth and the IAB’s initial objective; simply, “growth”; outlining new intentions to focus on long-term industry sustainability.

“The landscape and what people are focusing on in digital has changed with digital now the majority of ad spend in the UK”, said Mew; “Bigger questions are being asked of what we’re doing and the spotlight is on us.”

“It’s easy to get caught like a rabbit in the headlights with the big issues of fraud and viewability; we still want to make sure we’re tackling those big issues.”

While fielding concerns from the audience on membership fees – a point which has long been the subject of debate – Mew claimed that the IAB’s former focus on consensus was being replaced by a focus on “doing things”; building a sustainable future and “not just listening to the industry, but leading it”.

On the Bureau’s upcoming plans, he cited key goals of establishing a ‘Gold Standard’ for digital advertising, a renewed focus on brands and agencies, more proactive communication with members, and “tackling measurement” – the latter of which will include the appointment of a designated officer in 2018

Lifetime value

Following the launch of the IAB’s whitepaper Lifetime Value: The 2017 Guide, a panel formed by Daniel Lancioni (head of affiliates at MediaCom), Owen Hancock (head of strategy for Europe at CJ Affiliate by Conversant), Nick Fletcher (VP of customer success at Rakuten Marketing UK) and moderated by Kevin Edwards (head of global client strategy at Awin), addressed the role of consumer lifetime value as a metric, and what networks, advertisers and publishers should be doing to improve it.

A recurring theme, the industry’s reluctance to move away from last click attribution was a result of it being “scared of change”, according to Fletcher; “As marketers, we tend to be quite short-term focused. My targets are about what I do next year, not what I’m building towards in three years’ time.

“A lot of companies are focused on the next 12 months and how many customers they acquire, and afterwards hope they after that those customers will come back and buy repeatedly from them.

“That long-term vision is not often at the front of people’s minds,” Fletcher added.

Prevailing assumptions that affiliates at the bottom of the funnel (such as cashback and voucher code sites) don’t drive lifetime value were questioned, with these publishers often driving repeat purchases and the data often showing “surprising” relationships.

Hancock returned that as a network, “you have to be publisher agnostic”, but added that in terms of lifetime value, there will naturally be publishers who are more suited to driving loyalty than others.

With questions invited from the audience, the panel was quizzed on whether lifetime value is a concept advertisers are willing to reward within affiliate marketing, owed to a prevalence of 0% commissions for existing customers.

To this, Lancioni agreed that “more needs to be done” at the c-suite level in order to push perception changes and encourage “a better look at existing customers” and the channels available to foster them.

On efforts toward rewarding affiliates for lifetime value, Lancioni added that “we’d like to do it better.”

Voucher code concerns

The final speaker on the agenda, chair of the performance marketing council and UK MD for Acceleration Partners, Helen Southgate presented the yearly roundup from the legislative council, a subset of the performance marketing advisory group.

An audit of the existing Voucher Code of Conduct revealed a number of areas of improvement, which includes a review of how voucher codes work within toolbar extensions – a point which follows the controversial launch of Pouch’s cross-promotional recommendations product this year.

The audit is also to include a review of how the industry works with third-party networks, such as Skimlinks and VigLink, and the process of monitoring voucher codes sites within them, while Southgate also affirmed there would be more transparency in the results of audits to come, with the next due in January 2018.

Southgate briefly touched on the impact of GDPR compliance, assuring that “the right conversations are happening with the right people” in the industry to ensure a “consistent approach”, having had numerous perspectives on best practice from across the industry in recent months.

In what set the momentum for a lengthy debate at the Town Hall, concerns became evident among publishers around unvalidated commissions, to which Southgate said responsibility fell to the “networks, platforms and agencies” to ensure advertisers are aware of the Advertising Standards Charter.

“This needs to stop”, was the response of one publisher, which claimed an estimate of 10% in outstanding payout from merchants this year; “the networks are refusing to talk about it together”, they added, questioning whether an unforced charter is sufficient to ensure the execution of best practice across the industry.

Following what was a roundly positive agenda with intentions to assure the industry of the IAB UK’s commitment to upholding standards more proactively across the digital and performance advertising industry, it was a difficult note to end the day on and one which will inevitably require further discussion.

PerformanceIN streamed the Town Hall live on Facebook, available to watch here.