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The Importance of being Objective in Today's Affiliate Landscape

The Importance of being Objective in Today's Affiliate Landscape

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Acceleration Partners’ managing director EMEA, Helen Southgate discusses the role and position of networks in the affiliate marketing industry, including the transitions and challenges taking place.

The biggest deciding factor in moving from an affiliate network to affiliate consultancy was because I felt my role as a network head was becoming untenable. I faced the daily challenge of an increased feeling of a conflict of interest between the company’s short-term demands and what I felt we should be doing for our advertiser and publisher partners to drive better affiliate programmes.

The problem here is a fundamental issue that networks face. Independence and objectivity. A network makes its money based on their publishers’ revenue; this creates conflicts of interest. If a publisher is generating 50% of an advertiser’s affiliate programme revenue, allowing the account manager to hit their targets and keep the client happy, do we really expect the account manager to suggest changes that may affect that, even if it’s the right thing to do?

Here we go, another ex-network person bashing networks for the purposes of promoting their own interests.

Not true in this instance.  I have only admiration and respect for networks and their staff.  It’s a tough role in which you often feel conflicted. I did it for over 11 years, starting as a junior executive and finishing as the managing director of a network, I had experience across all roles in that journey. Networks will continue to do an excellent job in managing and running a wide variety of affiliate programmes and supporting the continued growth of affiliate marketing.

However, there is no hiding from the fact that because of their commercial set-up and position, they cannot always be objective. A consultancy can be, as we are, paid by fee’s, not commission. This means we provide advertisers with an honest and objective assessment of their affiliate marketing and what they can do to make their programme perform better.

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up” - Chuck Palahniuk

Account management teams are between a rock and a hard place, pressurised by the advertisers, publishers and the businesses they represent to deliver short-term results. They are often so bogged down in the day-to-day that it becomes hard to look at the bigger picture.

This is an easy trap to fall into.  When concentrating on running existing programmes most people tend to look for small optimisations and easy wins. They think tactically, not strategically, focusing on the now and not the future. It’s also very hard to constructively criticise what your own people have already invested their time and effort into. It’s even harder to be honest about their weaknesses.

Our independence as a consultancy means we can do this. We’re able to ask the difficult questions and get unbiased answers, whilst providing additional services like multi-network audits that would be a conflict of interest for others to do. Our only agenda is to build better affiliate programmes for advertisers.  

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Helen Southgate

Helen Southgate

Helen is the Managing Director of Acceleration Partners EMEA. She has over 15 years of experience in the digital marketing sector working for high-growth companies. Helen previously served as Managing Director at affilinet, one of the largest European affiliate marketing networks and on the digital marketing team at Sky PLC. She is currently the Chair of the IAB Performance Marketing Council. In her spare time she likes to cycle up and down hills and support her home football club, Norwich City.

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