The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) played host to the Performance Marketing Trends 2018 seminar yesterday, an event dedicated to thrashing out the current challenges and direction of the industry, ambitiously condensed into one afternoon.

Hosted in the trade body’s newly-branded Macklin Street training space and sponsored by SaaS-based performance marketing platform CAKE, a diverse agenda saw experts from companies including Awin, Trackonomics and Criteo tackle attribution, automation, longtail and global forecasts, in two sets of three 20-minute sessions, followed by an interactive debate.  

Reading between the lines of the structured presentations, key themes to emerge were the need for increased efficiency in order for affiliates to keep any sort of pace with the ad tech giants; an overall acceptance of a need to move away from last click; smarter economy of data use in advertising, and the as yet not-fully-realised (or rewarded) power of content affiliates.

Meanwhile, despite a session devoted to the matter, loitering concerns over the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) remained muted – perhaps owed to the lack of actual affiliates in the room – while the IAB’s Mike Reynolds confirmed the return of its annual Benchmarks Report, with results expected to be announced in April at Affiliate Huddle.

For those looking to catch Performance Marketing Trends 2018 as it happened, PerformanceIN live-streamed the event on Facebook, with both parts of the day available to rewatch here, while we summarise some notable highlights below. 

Opening the floor, CAKE’s joint MD for EMEA, Elizabeth D’Arcy-Potts, claimed that data fragmentation as a result of multi-channel remained a “headache” in turning insight into actionable information within the industry, while those of CAKE’s clients making moves towards multi-touch attribution had seen affiliate drive more sales than channels including paid search – particularly in regard to smaller publishers.

“Invest in measurement,” was her parting advice.

Next on stage was Kevin Edwards, Awin’s global client strategy director, who opened with the network’s prediction that UK affiliate marketing at;”> current is worth £1.6 billion, representing over a tenth of the total £12 billion projection for global value and some way ahead of neighbouring European markets, with Germany nipping at the heels at £1.2 billion.

Edwards went on to explore the global trends which could be set to top the walls of various international markets, including the expansion of Single’s Day – the Chinese retail event fanned by Asia’s answer to Amazon, Alibaba – which represents the largest day for e-commerce globally.

Adding that the networks and industry as a whole was at a “crossroads with GDPR”, Edwards maintained the industry has a “good head start” against others in terms understanding “where we are”, citing marketers’ consequential approach to ‘data minimisation’ as an interesting discipline, circling around the premise of “track relevantly and paying for value”, as opposed to “tracking everything”. The role of influencer marketing also entered the fray, with Edwards calling its current integration with affiliate marketing a “square peg and round hole” arrangement; beyond its impact on sales, he suggested there is ground to be made in measuring content and its effect beyond conversions – such as branding – pointing to the current chasm between influencer commissions, which represents “about a tenth” of that of incentive publishers.

After a brief intermission, an overview of the IAB Europe’s GDPR Compliance Framework came courtesy of Yves Schwarzbart, the group’s head of policy and regulatory affairs, before Nicole Kivel, head of UK brand & agency at Criteo, revealed how companies are making tactical mergers in order to bridge consumer behaviour data between online and offline, pointing to Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and Sainsburys’ Argos buyout, among others.

It was then over to the co-founder and CEO of Trackonomics, Hanan Maayan, who addressed affiliate marketing’s fondness for association as a “people-based industry” as nostalgia, holding the channel back from anything like the scale, efficiency and incremental growth enjoyed by Google, the display ad market and Facebook.

Maayan estimated that 72,000 hours a week were “wasted” on menial tasks that had the potential to be automated, challenging the audience to “try to get an affiliate programme live in less than 52 days”.

The afternoon concluded with a two-sided panel debate aiming to get to the bottom of whether a level of “nurturing” still exist in the affiliate industry today. In the ensuing discussion, Victoria Bruce (Telegraph) said that publishers “had a battle on their hands” unless at the point-of-sale, such as incentive sites, while at the other end of the pitch, Edwards replied that it was “less about support and nurturing, and more about advertiser education”.

For the full 20-minute debate and result, watch the Facebook Live coverage from 56:00 onwards.