When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

Despite the big number affiliate marketing still has lots of convincing to do

A rather infamous interview with ASOS co-founder Nick Robertson dating back to 2007, referred to some of its early affiliate partners as “grubby little people… growing their income at our expense” that demanded “silly commissions”.

Ronan Shields

This perfectly sums up the historic battle for mindshare faced by the affiliate or online performance (OPM) marketing sector.

To further its rehabilitation in the eyes of brand-side marketers (its initial attempt to rebrand ‘affiliate’ as OPM) was this week’s debut IAB study to assess its contribution to the wider UK digital economy.

In its study, it found that OPM generated £8bn in sales in 2012 - on the back of £814m being spent in the sector - constituting nearly 5-6 per cent of all UK e-commerce retail sales.

Massive numbers, I’m sure you’d agree, especially when you think that OPM essentially doesn’t charge brands up front for a sale or a sales lead. In the face of such ‘overwhelming’ evidence, it begs the question: ‘Why aren’t brands investing more on OPM?’

Affiliate marketing veteran and current senior online marketing manager at Sky, Helen Southgate told me despite evidence pointing to handsome returns of using OPM, a lack of education in the industry still reigned.

Although education was improving among mainstream marketers, the fact affiliate networks involve a very complex structure often intimidates the uninitiated rendering them unwilling to spend more on such modes of customer acquisition.

Hence, this lack of education is stifling investment in the discipline from those who make the decisions and ultimately have to defend how their media budgets are spent.

To address this situation, we can expect the parties involved in producing this study to launch a major charm offensive this year but what’s clear is that they’ll have to address the allegations of ‘stealing traffic’ and skimming links’ if they are to get more than just a foot in the door.

Readers' comments (14)

  • Hi Kevin, George, Chris, Keith, Chris, Pace et al.

    Thanks for reading and your feedback, no matter what the sentiment, it's always welcome. However, I'd like to clarify some of the points I made.

    In terms of bringing up 'grubby-gate' I was using it as an example of the historical challenge faced by online affiliate marketers.

    Yes, it is an extreme example – and yes I am aware that it dates back to 2007 – but the fact is that was an article reporting the opinion of an influential person within the industry at the time. Not the opinion of the journalist(s) involved.

    In my defence, I did point to the fact that I did state that the 11-1 return was 'massive'.

    This prompted me to ask the question, 'why aren't more brand-side marketers willing to go on record about it?' This would make my job of reporting on the sector an easier one.

    I often get little more than a rehashed press release when I speak to them about it. Few people talk about it on record and directly talk about the measures they're taking to limit it. That's a story I'd report on.

    It's also why the Sky affiliate marketer I quoted in the piece was exceptional in that she acknowledged the 'confusing' nature of the sector. I'd also add that she did note that it was one of their best-performing channels, which I highlighted in the original news report.

    The fact that this piece has generated such discussion means it's likely they'll be a follow-up. If any of you would like to help out then I'll leave my direct contact details below.

    Also, in regards to the allegations of ‘stealing traffic’ and 'skimming links’ and your (seemingly) collective assertion that this is also an outdated matter, I would refer you to an article entitled "IAB bids to boost affiliate marketing's standing." This article, written September 2012, where a fellow reader raised these issues in the comments section.

    If you'd like to discuss the matter further then please feel free to contact me directly on the below:


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  • I'm always happy to contribute or comment about anything affiliate related.

    Ronan, as an aside, the point that you make in your response about allegations of stealing traffic and skimming links in an earlier post was regarding someone's perception of networks, not affiliate marketing. Plus I presume, given the brands listed, it was written by someone US based.

    The US and UK affiliate markets are significantly different - the UK probably representing the most sophisticated performance marketplace in the world. The OPM report only reported on UK data.

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  • Hey did anybody see the thing on 20/20 about affiliate marketers? It was not good. My philosophy is much different. I plan on giving good content and make people enjoy it. The money will follow. There are multiple types of marketers, but this is what I am:http://wp.me/p32Y4i-L
    In this post, I talk about what i try to do with my site: http://wp.me/p32Y4i-5

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  • The performance marketing industry is a blessing to advertisers who finally have a reliable means of measuring the impact of their marketing dollars. Traditional offline advertising such as billboards, print and the "pay for it and pray" model have claimed more victims than anyone is able to measure. The transparency, flexibility and fixed-cost nature of performance marketing offers advertisers another excellent option to get their product and messaging in front of consumers.

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