The Performance Marketing Association (PMA) recently hosted a webinar on some of the most timely issues facing the affiliate marketing industry. More than fifty people attended “Publishers, Payments and Partnerships,” which offered a cross-pollination of publisher, advertiser, and affiliate manager perspectives on bad merchants, AI fraud, and more.
Sponsored by Performance Marketing Manager (PMM), the panel featured six industry-leading experts: Dustin Howes (PMM), Lauren Isbrandtsen (Ibotta), Teresa Grammatke (E-Accountable), Tricia Meyer (PMA) Jeannine Crooks (Awin), and co-founder and CEO of Lab6 Media, Karen Garcia.
The discussion was sparked by a conversation at Affiliate Summit West 2023, where the issue of problematic brands within networks was raised. Initially, the networks attempted to create a list of bad actors only to discover that legal constraints made that impossible. Therefore, the Publisher Council initiated a broader conversation on alternative approaches to dealing with problematic merchants.
I. Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on Affiliate Marketing
The panel addressed the ongoing impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on affiliate marketing. Karen shared that the number of applications has seen a significant increase. As affiliates use AI to spin up new sites, she is seeing to 5 to 10 times the usual volume of applications. Additionally, there has been a rise in fake publishers copying content from genuine domains. They sett up alternative domains and emails to impersonate large publishers. To combat this, Karen recommended using tools like Google Lens to verify the authenticity of the images. The panel unanimously agreed that manual application approval, with a human eye overseeing the process, is necessary to minimize fraudulent transactions.
II. Protecting Yourself as a Publisher
The panel offered practical advice for publishers to establish their legitimacy. This includes having a dedicated website, using an on-domain email, making it easy for affiliate managers or brands to contact them. They also recommended utilizing the notes section in the network to outline their promotional plans. Karen urged publishers to proactively ensure that no one is impersonating their brand and advised conducting regular checks to prevent website copying.
III. Identifying Red Flags with Merchants
One topic discussed was “network-hopping” merchants, those who switch networks frequently. They may be a cause for concern because they sometimes leave without paying affiliates what they’re owed. They resurface on a new network with publishers none the wiser about the affiliates they left high and dry. Tricia recommended that publishers inquire about any such red flags before joining a program. If they can explain, you can choose to give them a chance, but walk away if program managers fail to provide satisfactory explanations.
IV. Conflict Resolution with Merchants
In tackling conflicts with merchants that aren’t resolved within the network, Jeannine and Teresa provided perspectives from the network side. Legal and proprietary concerns sometimes prevent networks from sharing information with publishers, limiting their ability to offer resolutions. Tricia suggested publishers reach out to affiliate managers and provide comprehensive information. Order numbers, transaction details, and detailed communication records all help a network’s compliance team help you. The panel emphasized the importance of kindness and politeness in these interactions, as network professionals juggle thousands of support tickets and delays are rarely intentional.
V. Importance of Networking and Relationship Building
Even as times have changed, the key to affiliate success has always been and continues to be building relationships. Tricia emphasized the industry’s crossover and the regular changes in people’s roles. She underscored the importance of getting to know everyone. Actively participate in webinars, conferences, and local meetings, join organizations like the PMA.
Jeannine pointed out that having established relationships makes it easier to garner attention from networks, which are typically overwhelmed with requests. Finally, Karen reminded affiliates that other publishers aren’t really their competition, even within the same vertical. “Your audiences barely overlap,” she emphasized, and suggested creating a Slack group or Mastermind to strategize.
Watch the replay on LinkedIn for more on networking, problem-solving, and getting ahead of AI-related fraud!