Robert Glazer on the Role of the Network
Robert Glazer, Founder and Managing Director at Acceleration Partners , a digital strategies and marketing firm, will be moderating a panel at Affiliate Management Days (AM Days) taking place April 16-17, 2013 in San Francisco.
The much anticipated session– called The Role of the Affiliate Network – features all the major networks as panelists including Kristin Hall, Head of Publisher Development for Google Affiliate Network; Todd Crawford, Co-Founder of Impact Radius; Brian Littleton, Founder & CEO of ShareASale; Gary Marcoccia, Director of Strategic Partnerships for AvantLink; and Kerri Pollard, President, Commission Junction.
The session will look at how affiliate networks have evolved and will discuss what role the network should play in areas such as affiliate screening, fraud monitoring, program management and more.
As a 15 year veteran of online marketing, Robert is a customer acquisition specialist and a recognized leader in creating high-quality affiliate marketing programs for fast-growing online retailers. Over the past five years, Acceleration Partners has driven more than $100 million in online revenue for its clients and was recently awarded the 2012 Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award for Exceptional Merchant for Tiny Prints as the industry’s top program. His clients also include adidas, Blurb, Layla Grace, ModCloth, One King’s Lane, ShoeDazzle, Shutterfly (Tiny Prints), Stella & Dot, and Tea Collection.
The PMA asked Robert (who also sits on the Board of Directors for the Performance Marketing Association) a few questions about what he expects AM Days attendees will come away with from this Network session and his thoughts on role of the network, compliance, attribution and more.
Performance Marketing Association: This session has a lot of big name industry leaders, how do you feel about asking the tough questions and challenging them?
Robert Glazer: We ran a very similar panel at the last AM Days and had a lively discussion that covered topics that have not been discussed openly enough in the industry. Many of the questions asked were not softballs, by any manner. They elicited some interesting discussion and debate among the panelists and audience members.
PMA: What is the biggest issue you’d like to see the networks address in this session and in general?
RG: One of the hottest topics right now, which I spoke about last week at Performance Market Summit is the notion of better attribution and making sure that programs are not overvaluing the end of the funnel at the expense of quality affiliates who are driving top of funnel awareness.
We hear a lot of networks talking about attribution, but very few actually offer merchants the tools to better tie their rules and commission payouts to certain behaviors and affiliate types or give merchants the visibility and control over their own programs that they need. The reason behind this is really clear: It’s going to hurt revenue in the short term given the concentration of sales from large coupon and loyalty sites that are under the attribution spotlight and whose commissions are likely to be reduced. I’d like to see less talk about attribution as a general topic and more specific plans and timelines for action. The big networks are very far behind the smaller ones on making real progress in this area and we are already seeing it become a point of differentiation. “It’s on the roadmap” doesn’t cut it anymore.
PMA: Are there any issues that you expect the networks to have much disagreement about?
RG: Managed services are an area where there is a lot of disagreement and difference in philosophy. We touched on this briefly at the last AM Days and I expect it will be a hot topic again in San Francisco. I am surprised that the networks that offer these services don’t see the potential for a conflict of interest by offering program management in conjunction with a performance model that is based on sales and commissions paid to affiliates who are also customers of the network.
The most well run programs focus on the profitability of their programs – rather than the sales alone. Part of the job of a good manager is to remove the wrong people from a program, reduce commissions to low value affiliates and police bad behavior. These are all activities that will reduce the network’s earnings. I would feel a lot more comfortable hearing how they mitigate this issue rather than dismissing it outright.
PMA: All the networks have some level of fraud and compliance monitoring. Everyone asks them about it and the questions usually elicit a standard answer about “doing their best to lessen fraud”. Are you prepared to challenge the networks a bit more on that one issue?
RG: Definitely. This is an area where the European networks have created a very different standard that shows how far we are lacking here in the US. From my perspective, one of the problems is that with today’s incentives, fraud literally pays for the networks.
I think until the business model or economics change, that’s always going to be an obstacle. One of the things that was brought up from an attendees at the last panel I moderated at AM Days was how outside agencies and OPM’s could not recall a time when a major network came to them and proactively suggested that they remove someone who had been caught cheating in another program from their program. This should be happening a lot more often. It’s worrisome.
PMA: Do you have a vision of how the role of the networks will evolve?
RG: I think that the network pricing model is going to come under a lot of scrutiny as advertisers become more reluctant to pay high performance fees for relationships that are not proprietary or driven by the network. We are already seeing new companies come out with robust affiliate tracking platforms that are sold on a straight forward licensing basis that offer a tremendous cost advantage without any competing interests. For networks to continue to charge a percentage of sales or commission, they are going to have to redefine their value proposition and show what they are bringing to the table to deserve a substantial piece of the transaction.
PMA: Is the role of the network more or less important now than 5 years ago?
RG: In line with the above, I think the escrow and tracking function that the networks provide is going to become even more critical in a multi-device and multi-channel world to ensure that performance marketing partners are being paid properly for their efforts. Networks are going to have to innovate much faster to allow for this sort of complex tracking and advertisers are going to rightfully demand more transparency, control and independence over how their programs are managed.
It’s simply not acceptable in 2013 to not know who your affiliates are and where and how they are promoting your brand. I also see a trend of more companies moving away from network management in favor of a third party agency or in house management as an affiliate program’s success is measured less in terms of top line non-attributed revenue and more on profitability with an integrated view across multiple channels. The definition of a program’s success is going to change from the narrow focus on top line revenue that prevails today and is responsible for a lot of bad incentives.
Robert will also have a solo session at AM Days – Why Your Affiliate Revenue May Not Be Real & What You Can Do About It
Get the AM Days full agenda
PMA Members will receive a 15 percent discount on registration. Check your PMA member-only newsletter for the promo code or email Rachel Guillot (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the PMA member-only discount.
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