Late Night Stand Up Comedians Put the Spotlight on Affiliate Marketing

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When I first entered the affiliate marketing space in 2023, I came across several articles stating that a very low percentage of Millenials and Gen Z trust traditional advertising. Coming from academia, I thought about how I taught my students to be careful when crafting a thesis. The questions you ask often beget your answers. Rather than asking why younger generations distrust advertising, a better question would be, why shouldn’t they?

I. A New Era of Advertising

Over the last twenty years or so, many advertising and marketing professionals have moved away from the old school model of advertising. We all know those ads. Based on manipulating viewers, they try to make a pain point and then offer a solution to it. No doubt that kind of advertising still dominates, but the new era of sales asks different questions. They try to get better at giving people what they need, rather than trying to make them buy what they don’t.

Affiliate marketing has enjoyed 10% in growth in each of the last two years and is projected to increase 5X by 2030, in part because it solves some of the problems in traditional marketing.

II. Consumers and Affiliate Marketing

People even seem to like affiliate marketing, as evidenced by late night stand up comedians Zainab Johnson and Mary Santora’s recent comedy routines. Whereas people are forced to watch traditional advertising, with affiliate, consumers have choice over whether and how to engage. Viewers choose to follow content creators they like, and whether to purchase with an affiliate’s link.

Affiliate is also generally regarded as more trustworthy than traditional advertising. The average consumer knows that a real person getting a small commission is more reliable than an actor rehearsing a script written by salaried advertisers. Moreover, affiliate takes advantage of the simple fact that people need things. We don’t have to sell people stuff they don’t need: there is enough stuff out there that people need and enough people to buy it. Affiliate capitalizes on that.

While still underutilized in the marketing stack by brands, the lack of traditional advertising voice is precisely what makes consumers like it more. Watch as two hilarious female comics, Zainab Johnson and Mary Santora, highlight two different types of affiliate marketing in their sketches. The audience’s reactions demonstrate clearly that affiliate marketing is now a part of our zeitgeist.

III. Zainab Johnson Highlights Youtube Affiliate Marketing

Johnson affectionately describes Youtube as “her place.” In so doing, she highlights the ways that people have an affinity for certain platforms and also even for affiliate marketing itself. Listen to the way the crowd reacts when she mentions the affiliate link, in particular (7:54-8:25):

People understand that affiliate is advertising and they still cheer when she refers to the ad link under the video! This confirms that consumers appreciate the convenience that affiliate affords. Affiliate makes it easier to find what you need, with a link right under the video you clicked on.

IV. Mary Santora Spotlights Influencer Marketing

Relatedly, Mary Santora riffs on another arm of affiliate marketing, influencer marketing. In “Anxiety vs. Logic,” she performs a sponsorship ad for a prescription anti-anxiety medication.

Like a lot of good satire, Santora’s bit belies an earnest desire under the surface. Most creatives work just as hard at making their art sustainable as on their craft. Another positive sheen on affiliate marketing is that it gives creatives and entrepreneurs a way to make their work profitable. Watch from 3:27-4:22:

Kudos to Santora for calling out the FTC requirement that affiliates disclose their relationships to their sponsors! The joke is funny because her audience understands how affiliate works and why it could be a “life goal” for her to become sponsored (unlikely as that is, in that particular vertical).

The ways that Johnson and Santora spotlight affiliate marketing in their comedy underscore how affiliate has firmly entered our zeitgeist as a form of advertising that younger and older generations of Americans mind less than traditional adversing and sometimes even actively like. One final question might be, will the marketing industry catch up?

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