With 2019 in full swing, the next chapter has begun for performance marketing with predictions and insights exploring where the channel will be heading next. One of the key talking points at Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas this week (January 5-8) was the challenges and opportunities posed for the channel over the next 12 months. 

This was discussed in detail during a panel discussion moderated by Acceleration Partner’s founder and CEO Robert Glazer, which saw Rakuten Marketing general manager Julie Van Ullen, Awin Group CEO Mark Walters, Impact VP strategic initiatives Todd Crawford and CJ Affiliate president Waleed Al Atraqchi go head-to-head on the important matters at hand.

Innovative solutions at scale

As affiliate marketing continues to grow globally and more brands look to expand their partnership types (such as coupon loyalty) in wider markets, the panelists outlined key strategies to help clients diversify and bring more people into the space – whether it’s content from media companies and treating affiliates as an asset; recruiting the right team of publishers and advertisers, or providing innovative tech provider solutions for new affiliates. 

Walters indicated that delivering innovative tech provider solutions was crucial to developing new engagement in response to the high volume of new advertisers and entrepreneurs in the market looking to reach out for opportunities, with networks and platforms holding the scale and reach for them to grow and sustain the momentum. He referenced RevLifter’s success as a solid example with its seamless integration of MasterTag, providing value to partners while rolling the function at scale.

Collaboration and industry compliance

While building partnerships and diversifying offerings warmed up the conversations, it was the challenges that posed the most traction as the industry looked further into 2019. Collaboration was on the agenda as Glazer highlighted the need for collaboration to import regulations in the industry and questioned where the budget is coming from and how the discussion/dialogue is being approached. 

Referencing The Performance Marketing Association (PMA) and IAB Board, which was set up in the UK, Van Ullen said that trade associations are “the rise and tide” when it comes industry collaboration. As we think about standards to help collectively scale more efficiently, it’s those like the PMA who will set the standards that would evolve things like data protection, language contracts, standardised terms and conditions to form a true affiliate standard that brings scalability to advertisers and publishers. 

“Are we going to walk at the pace of the slowest walker or are we going to set standards that we expect networks, SaaS platforms and advertisers to adhere to?” commented Walters. He stated that “we’re all competitors” in the industry and when someone slips up, such as advertisers, for example, and the networks take the position not to work with them, how many of those publishers understand that position and how many networks would step in the fill that gap, and lastly, how many of those publishers that would of been affected would then move across to a new partner? “That’s the real aspect of collaboration and what we want to deliver for the industry,” he said.

While collaboration has ultimately introduced compliance and agreed on terms with partners, there’s been huge criticism of publishers and advertisers bypassing the rules. According to Glazer, for example, advertisers hold up payment, which leads to the network kicking them out, but the sales team would still approach them despite the advertiser demonstrating bad practice. Glazer said that this is bad for the industry and conversations need to start changing and “stop” embracing advertisers who have been kicked out of a competitor network for non-compliance or payment.

Addressing exclusive contracts 

During the discussion on compliance, Walters stated that advertisers were turning “exclusive” on contract terms as a way of controlling compliance when operating with partners but can we really address the reasoning for exclusivity and at what level is this given between the advertiser and network?

Impact’s Todd Crawford stated that are no benefits for advertisers, networks and SaaS platforms with these kinds of contracts, with clauses holding back industry growth.

“When you want a programme with better solutions than someone else’s, it’s not very long until you realise there are problems and you will consolidate, therefore, we’ve heard your exclusivity. We don’t demand exclusivity and we don’t prevent clients from going to other vendors,” said Crawford.

“Today, every brand has 10, 20, 30 partners that drive 95% of the volume and share profits, and there are no exclusive partnerships. If somebody wants to move, they’re going to move […] For me to go and tell a partner that you can’t work with an advertiser that used to work with us because they moved is absurd, and these are in contracts today,” he added.

Where do you think the performance marketing industry is heading this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Follow the action at Affiliate Summit West via the hashtag #ASW19.