In this edition of the Publisher Diaries, Niamh Butler-Walton chatted to Pete James, Head of Affiliates for the UK and Ireland at Groupon.

Pete began his career in the law field, studying for an undergraduate degree at Nottingham Trent University. He then went on to receive a postgraduate degree from the Nottingham Law School.

Pete also worked as a radio presenter for some of his life, before entering into our industry with a role of Key Account Manager at Awin. He left his role in 2015 and undertook various roles such as New Business Manager at an animation production company and a freelance SEO content writer.

Pete couldn’t keep himself away, however, and returned to Awin as Team Leader and then Account Director. Here he was responsible for the Sky & NOW TV group, DixonsCarphone group, and RAC.

Then, in 2019, Pete entered the role of Head of Affiliates for Groupon Reach Network in the UK & Ireland. The reach network comprises of Groupon, Vouchercloud, The Mirror, The Guardian, Mumsnet and the Irish Independent.

Now, here’s Pete to talk about his history and the trends he is noticing within the industry:

What is your role and what does it consist of?

I’m the Head of Affiliates for the UK and Ireland here at Groupon. On a day to day basis I oversee the affiliate team and client services function, working with clients to grow their affiliate revenues. I also work internally on improving our offering to the market wherever possible. I love pitching our new opportunities and products to clients, hearing about their marketing strategies and how we can help them.

As the client-facing team, we’re lucky to work with a number of our awesome ancillary teams too, such as SEO, PPC, Comms, and BI, all of whom are experts in their own fields, so it’s a varied role with a lot of touchpoints both internally and externally.

What do you enjoy most about the performance marketing industry?

I love how close knit the industry is, and the diversity of publisher types too. I’ve always got old colleagues or client contacts popping up in new roles or (when the world was normal and gets back to normal) bumping into old faces at industry events. I also love how honest the industry is – being completely measurable and paid on confirmed sales means there’s nowhere to hide, and no hoodwinking. And I love how results speak for themselves – we often stand up against other channels with far bigger budgets and always come away with a better ROI for our clients.

Who in your team deserves more recognition than they get?

I think I’d say all of the Account Execs, Account Managers and Senior Account Managers. They’re the ones dealing with clients day in, day out and, without whom we wouldn’t make any money!

This might sound like a very obvious point, and perhaps it’s not a trend per se, but flexibility and adaptability. Over lockdown and as we still trade in a recession, it’s those who are adapting and pivoting their business, their products and their marketing who are doing the best. Travel brands who immediately react to green list changes, electrical brands who immediately do a discount on fans and air con when the british summer melts us all, supermarkets who quickly launched food boxes in lockdown, and so on. A lot of people are financially worse off because of the pandemic, so cutting through the noise and ensuring you’re giving them exactly what they want, when they want, is crucial.

How has the role of affiliate networks changed over the last 12 months?

Networks have always been a key player between advertisers and publishers of course, but the last 12 months and the economic uncertainty which has come along has meant that, for us at least, networks have been an even more vital intermediary than ever before. Whether it’s clients who are altering commercials to make up for a downturn in business or networks telling us where to focus based on certain verticals booming, leaning on our networks has been key to get support where we’ve needed it.

Benchmarking is one thing that’s really been vital this past year. It’s been so important for us to contextualise our own performance within an ever changing economy, so the benchmarking data which some (not all!) networks offer is super useful in knowing how you’re really performing against the wider trends, and wider industry as a whole.

What one thing would you change about the industry?

Clients who don’t want to pay for, or who drastically reduce, existing customer commissions. You don’t get to only pay for a TV ad seen by people who’ve never shopped with you before, you don’t only pay google when a new customer clicks on your PPC ad, so why should affiliates be any different? Sometimes our flexibility as a channel works against us, and this is one of those times. A customer is a customer, and customer loyalty is so thin these days that the idea we’re not adding value by driving an existing customer back to your brand is, to me, quite laughable.

What’s your top tip for advertisers?

Be bold and make quick decisions. Find what’s working and squeeze more out of it. Find what’s not and stop it. Then find new opportunities and test them, learn from them, don’t be afraid to get it wrong. Find new publishers and give them a go. Your worst case scenario is something didn’t work, and you don’t do it again. Your best is you found a gem and diversified your marketing mix.

What other areas of the industry can you see yourself working in in the future, perhaps?

Interesting question! Having worked for a network and now a publisher, I suppose a client-side role would be something new! Or maybe a start-up tech provider in the space would be exciting.

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