The Players

The online performance marketing industry has three core constituencies: advertisers, networks and publishers. Outsourced program managers (OPMs) and solution providers complete the ecosystem of performance marketing. More definitions can be found in the Definition of Terms.


Advertisers, also known as merchants or retailers, have products to sell, and offers or services to promote. They set up performance marketing programs, also known as affiliate programs, as part of their marketing efforts. These performance marketing programs can either be set up through an affiliate network or tracked with in-house software. Publishers (or affiliates) apply for inclusion in these programs. Once accepted, advertisers provide creative (such as special promotions and links) that are placed on publishers’ websites. Publishers get compensated only after actions are completed by customers, such as if a purchase is made, a game is downloaded, or a lead form is completed. Ad rates are typically based on a percentage of the sale amount.


These are third-party companies that act as intermediaries between the advertisers and publishers. Networks provide a platform for connecting publishers with advertisers, tracking transactions, hosting ads, fulfilling the ad payouts between advertisers and publishers, compliance, and reporting to optimize the transactions that are conducted through these relationships.


Publishers, also known as affiliates or marketing partners, are website owners who sign up for advertiser programs and promote those advertisers through links that are tracked. Publishers are paid for the completion of a specific action (driving traffic, sending leads or making sales).

Publishers are not sales agents, nor do they work directly for the advertisers they promote. They are independent companies that use a variety of advertising and marketing methods — including search engine optimization, paid search, email marketing, social media marketing and display advertising — to generate traffic. The publisher does not handle the sale, ship goods or accept payments directly from the consumer: This is the responsibility of the advertiser.


Using an Outsourced Program Management  (OPM) firm or agency is an alternative way for an advertiser to launch, run and succeed in performance marketing without running their program in house. OPMs and agencies often have years of experience, expertise, and relationships that  can be instrumental in building a successful program. Many OPMs and agencies offer a variety of services including marketing strategy, design, publisher recruitment, compliance, and landing page optimization, SEO and SEM expertise and more.

Solution Providers

Third party solution providers often fill the gaps of performance marketing programs. They provide everything from web hosting to blog and website creation tools to analytics packages, compliance and legal services. These players develop much-need applications, services and tools that make building, running and optimizing businesses easier than ever.

Ready to Get Involved?

Any company or organization and select individuals who are committed to improving the Performance Marketing industry are eligible to join the Performance Marketing Association. Membership can be initiated at any time and dues are renewed annually.

Please click on the Membership Levels below to learn more about member benefits.

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