Networks and agencies including Acceleration Partners, Affiliate Future, Awin, CJ Affiliate, Optimise, Impact,  Partnerize, Rakuten Marketing, ShareaSale, Tradedoubler and Tradetracker, as well as a number of major publishers and brands including, Revlifter, The Hut Group, TopCashback, Travelodge and are supporting the joint-initiative. 

With Apple’s decision in June 2018 to block third-party tracking and a more recent announcement from Mozilla that Firefox would emulate the move, legacy tracking technologies may be failing to accurately track and reward affiliates for sales they generate. With as many as one in three sales being tracked through Safari and almost 5% of web interactions taking place via Firefox, the imperative is obvious.

Time to act now

The message behind the initiative is unequivocal if advertisers have not done so already, they need to act now to ensure their programmes remain viable and sustainable in 2019 and beyond. Ignoring this is highly likely to cause damage to campaigns as focus shifts to campaigns that are considered more worthwhile. 

“The message is clear. If Advertisers have not done so already, then they need to act now to ensure the viability and sustainability of their tracking by identifying solutions that are not impaired by these browser practices. Ignoring this is highly likely to cause damage to brand marketing performance as publisher focus shifts to campaigns that are considered more viable,” commented Sean Sewell, co-founder and VP revenue at Partnerize.

“Technically, the solutions are readily available and there should be no reason to delay. Across the industry, many advertisers are on board, but others are not and that is increasingly seen as a problem for the industry, especially with Firefox about to introduce changes that could negatively impact affiliate tracking technologies,” added Giles Hunt, chief technical officer at Optimise.

Although the responsibility is on Advertisers to ensure that tracking is properly implemented, the impact of not doing so affects the whole affiliate ecosystem.

“everyone within the well-balanced affiliate ecosystem will feel the impact of updates if the solutions that allow tracking are not implemented. Publishers run the risk of losing commission because advertisers will not know how to attribute the sales, Advertisers will then lose links and publishers from their programme which in turn impacts the consumer experience and their relationship with brands and resellers,” said Anthony Capano, MD EMEA at Rakuten Marketing.

Despite solutions often being implemented as a standard, there is increasing frustration that some advertisers do not appear to be taking notice.

“Awin continue to remind affected advertisers that failure to implement our solutions is now putting their campaigns in jeopardy. The best solution is to implement match fit tracking. A failure to do so means affiliates will switch focus and volume elsewhere,” said Kevin Edwards, global client strategy director.

One option that is gaining traction is to bill advertisers for campaigns that are impacted. Giles Hunt added that “providing free, untracked traffic is not an option so billing for untracked sales is the solution to keep campaigns viable for advertisers and affiliates”.

Simon Bird co-founder of Revlifter commented that “Everyone understands that it’s fundamental and necessary to pay for performance. No publisher is in a position to continue focusing on campaigns where there is a risk of not being paid. Advertisers understand this, and I am confident that an industry-wide push will be effective, so long as Advertisers get on board”. 

Helen Southgate, managing director EMEA at Acceleration Partners, added: “it’s good that so many advertisers now operate with viable tracking in place as standard but also frustrating that others are not there yet. The affiliate performance model is very attractive because outcomes are completely measurable but that only works if outcomes are measured. The industry needs a final push to get the remainder over the line”. 

Regional VP, EMEA at CJ Affiliate, Jules Bazley agreed, highlighting the range of challenges that tech companies are posing to all digital marketers.

“The majority of our advertisers recognize the importance of holistic tracking in the face of Apple ITP 2.0, Firefox and Google Parallel Tracking and most have taken appropriate steps to update and future-proof their program tracking, but we need to push further,” he said.

Collectively networks have been pursuing the same goals. Tradedoubler UK country manager Chris-Russell Smith, stressed the work that is going on behind the scenes as well as the broader message that failure to keep pace with the latest tracking technology could have a detrimental impact.

“Tradedoubler has been actively making our advertisers aware of the issues around ITP. That failure to check their tracking is fit for purpose is likely to make them less attractive to publishers and therefore endanger the success of their program,” he said.

Similarly, TradeTracker’s director of international operations, Philip Keckeis, stressed how affiliate marketing is premised on good faith that advertisers shouldn’t trade off.

“publishers believe that advertisers will do the right thing by them and reward them accordingly; the basic principles of affiliate marketing: trust, transparency and cooperation are critical,” he added.

Tracking investment needed

Weighing in from an advertiser perspective, one brand that has fully implemented first-party tracking is hotel specialist Travelodge. Fabrizio De Mel, affiliate and promotions manager at Travelodge urged advertisers to invest in upgrading their tracking, reflecting on the additional opportunities it has offered, 

“By having first-party tracking in place we’re able to guarantee our affiliates they’re being fairly rewarded for their efforts. Not only that but having the most up to date tracking ensures we’re able to work more flexible with a wider range of partners,” he said.

To add weight to the initiative, the IAB’s head of policy and regulatory affairs, Christie Dennehy-Neil, summarised that if advertisers aren’t able to attribute sales to their affiliate partners, this could affect the performance of their campaigns in the shorter term, as well as their ability to understand where best to invest advertising budgets in the longer-term. 

“We encourage advertisers to work with their affiliate partners to implement the solutions they have available to mitigate the potential impact of ITP2 and ensure that they can accurately attribute performance,” she added.

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