Helen Southgate, chair of the Internet Advertising Bureau UK’s (IAB UK) Performance Marketing Council, writes an open letter to the affiliate marketing industry.

Dear Affiliate Industry,

I’ve seen a lot of change across the affiliate channel since I started out in 2002, mostly for the good, but I am concerned about what the future holds.

I took a bit of a battering from some in the audience at the IAB Performance Marketing Council Townhall last week. I put myself up for chair so it comes with the territory, and I’m fine with that, but what I am finding much more challenging is a mounting feeling of helplessness the industry at large seems to have.

I understand and sympathise with many of the frustrations, but I don’t have the power or capacity alone to solve all of these issues. There is a growing element of apathy, navel-gazing and damn right self-preservation that is setting into the industry, and it’s ugly.

Publishers complain about advertisers, yet continue to promote and refuse to call them out because they don’t want to harm their relationships;

Networks agree to adhere to best practice and codes of conduct, yet apply these softly when it threatens to negatively affect their revenue from top partners;

Advertisers find ways to avoid paying affiliates commission for what should rightly be attributed to them as they are under pressure to save costs and increase margins and being allowed to do so with little challenge.

Networks feel caught in the middle, publishers feel like nobody is listening, and advertisers are struggling to justify the channel to their bosses.

I attended a meeting yesterday at the IAB UK to discuss the Online Performance Marketing (OPM) Study. It’s a unique piece of research that models the size, growth and diversity of our channel that was on the verge of being made redundant next year until I argued passionately for it to remain.Our industry needs this, but it is becoming near impossible to do because important data is missing from some key stakeholders. If those stakeholders (and you know who you are) don’t want to contribute to something that adds significant value to our industry, then what hope do we have?

We can continue on the path above, worry about our own back gardens and start to see the demise of an industry which we have all worked so hard for. Or we can get together and solve these issues, be clear on what is right and wrong, be firm with those that digress and make sure we continue to grow this industry and our businesses. Above all, we need to demonstrate to the wider digital world why hands down, it’s the best investment channel there is.

This needs everyone to step up, to collaborate and do their part to help grow our channel, which will ultimately be to the benefit of everyone.

Who’s with me?

Helen Southgate

Chair of the IAB Performance Marketing Council

Managing Director EMEA, Acceleration Partners