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It’s time for the next “real talk” within affiliate marketing

In full candor, my enthusiasm for partnership and affiliate marketing didn’t start out very high by any standard of measurement. It is not something I hide. I agreed to run a turnaround of a relatively high-profile distressed business in the category. It wasn’t an easy “yes” to the private equity sponsors. It involved a lot of diligence. 

It was not lost on me that this is a category that for years had been constrained by its own now-well-chronicled bad behaviors, including PPC and SEO manipulation, opaque arbitrage, click stuffing, grade-your-own homework measurement and a self-enriching game of last-click hijacks. It wasn’t particularly shocking to find that CEOs and CMOs were still putting their most important partnerships in the hands of their business development teams instead of their affiliate teams. It also wasn’t particularly shocking to consistently find that more than 60 percent of a program’s revenue was allocated to less than five partners. Not exactly a recipe for growth.

Don’t misunderstand, collectively we’ve made real progress over the past few years. New narratives have been written, and technology innovation has enabled diversification of partners, equitable attribution and, with it, new opportunity. New capital has flowed into category businesses, and, with it, the skepticism has given way to optimism and clear progress on the path to authentic enthusiasm from those whom we seek legitimacy (otherwise known as significant increases in category spend). 

My colleague Michael Jaconi, the CEO of Button, recently referenced the ongoing effort to expand the addressable market for affiliate and partner marketing with a powerful call-out identifying a potential path for “affiliate companies to escape the enterprise value…


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