Affiliate Summit East ’19 Roundup

Brian Marcus

For me, the Affiliate Summit is as dependable as the perennial flowering plant. It rarely disappoints and you always know what to expect. In fact, I have been going to them since 2006, if memory serves me. Every year, at least twice a year, our team comes back charged up for the channel, full of hope, and chock full of new ideas. 

Given that the ecosystem is changing so rapidly, with each passing year, I see fewer and fewer familiar faces. However, I am encouraged by the influx of fresh new faces, new technologies, new types of partners, and new ways to monetize in this whimsical and wonderful channel, we call the partnership channel. 

And while the show structure has morphed a bit from its scrappy entrepreneurial roots (once on a boat) to more corporate sheen, the same goals exist–expand your network, find new customers, learn about new ways companies are leveraging the channel, and have lots of fun doing it. A quick scan of topics this year is a good reflection of what is on people’s minds:

  • How to drive success in the partnership channel
  • New distribution channels such as Podcasting, Influencers, Email, Gaming, and Content
  • New industry data, such as the report issued by the PMA
  • New methods of optimizing your organic reach via SEO
  • New types of advertisers, including DTC and B2B
  • How to navigate Pinterest and (now) Amazon
  • And, the perennial topic, dealing with Facebook and Google

On Monday, August 12th, our CEO, Peter Hamilton, shared his perspectives in a session entitled, Building a Partner Program WITH Networks. 

Peter Hamilton, CEO at TUNE, presents at ASE 19.
Peter Hamilton, CEO at TUNE, presents “Building a Partner Network with Networks” at this year’s ASE.

To summarize, while it may appear obvious to the Affiliate Summit audience that you’d want to work WITH networks, it’s important to understand the subtlety. His message highlighted the fact that it is time to buck conventional wisdom of only working with one or two networks as a default (typically an affiliate network). Why not work with all kinds of networks (mobile, content, influencer, etc.) to scale supply? The demand is most certainly there.

It is like telling an investor to pick one mutual fund for their portfolio. Why not balance your partner portfolio? Work with single stocks (i.e., directly with partners) AND pick a few Exchange Traded Funds (e.g., affiliate networks), some new investment vehicles (e.g., influencer networks) and some bond funds (e.g., content networks) in order to reduce your concentration risk. And why not judge them all on a level playing field? Working WITH MANY networks should help you maximize your partnership value. It is not an “OR” proposition, but an “AND” proposition. 

Meanwhile, on the show floor, TUNE came out in force with its fully repositioned brand–one brand, two customers and a single platform to partner the way you want to. We had lots to talk about with our customers, including our new capabilities in payment, mobile tracking, mobile partnerships, and proactive fraud prevention.

Walking away from the show, our team felt very energized by this week and the opportunities that are open for the taking. Here are our top takeaways from this show: 

  • Takeaway #1: Being “open” is a superpower. At this stage of the Affiliate lifecycle, who doesn’t benefit from being more open in the types of partners and networks you work and the tools you use? With more transparency and flexibility to work the way you want to, there is no benefit to being closed. The winners will be those that continue to drive value in the face of competition, with a unique value proposition and real value to offer Advertisers. Those that lose, will do so with lack of differentiation or incremental value. The strong survive!
  • Takeaway #2: The affiliate world is still missing out on the single biggest untapped opportunity–Mobile! This feels like a rerun, but this time the ecosystem is out of excuses. Technology platforms (like TUNE) are ready! And it doesn’t require rocket science or another SDK to get it right. And the sooner Advertisers figure out how to organize themselves better internally, align incentives, fix links and improve the customer experience, the sooner this world will be driving scale. Again, the strong survive… look at those companies that started with a mobile mindset and ask, how can the industry look more like this?
  • Takeaway #3: The affiliate world is ready for more choices. Agencies, Advertisers, Networks and Partners are all looking for something new. They want to be in the driver seat with the flexibility to help them differentiate from the crowd. Same old choices lead to the same old strategies. There is plenty of room for more options. And we felt validated that customers are asking for this now.

Well, that is our roundup for ASE ‘19. We will see you at the next Affiliate Summit (go west, people). Like clockwork, we will be there helping Advertisers, Networks, Agencies and Partners adapt to the new partnership world… and we can’t wait! 

Brian Marcus

Brian Marcus, TUNE’s VP of Global of Marketing is an experienced marketing leader, whose career evolved in lock-step with the emergence of eCommerce and digital media. Since 2002, Brian has been shaping the performance marketing community — as a digital marketer, as a platform owner, and as a platform evangelist. Brian launched into eCommerce leading customer acquisition at JC Whitney, a century old cataloger destined to move online. From there, he went on to build two global affiliate marketing programs and platforms, one at Google (GAN) and the other at eBay (ePN). Most recently, Brian was VP of Marketing at Teespring, a Selling and eCommerce platform for designers and creators. Brian is a Chicago native, a Cubs fan, and a music fanatic. He now considers Seattle his home and spends his free time enjoying the Pacific Northwest with his family. He earned his BA from Grinnell College (in Iowa) and his MBA from the University of Chicago (Booth).