MARCC Coverage: The Changing Face of the Affiliate Agency Ecosystem

A few years ago, the affiliate agency world was pretty quiet. Quietly effective. Quietly vigorous. Quietly innovative. But…well… quiet. If you wanted great affiliate strategies and results, you went to one of the high-performance OPMs that have led the way to the best outcomes. A small (read: tiny) number of other agencies delivered outstanding results in our industry. But until recently, many of the full-service and digital agencies that offered affiliate services were nowhere near the bleeding edge.

Stream this panel discussion on-demand here.

Our thanks to Methuselah Advisors for sponsoring this panel.

There are many reasons for this, of course. And if you’ve grown weary of reading sentences about silos, last-click attribution, and undeserved smells associated with the word “affiliate,” you should probably skip this paragraph. Oh, Hell, let’s all skip it. It may suck for you to read that stuff, but rest assured, it sucks more to write it for the 97th time. Our business has overcome many of these issues, and our ascendance is making many marketing services leaders say, “Hold up a minute. Why are we not leading in this area?”

According to the VIP agency panel at last week’s Martech Record’s Marketing, Content, and Commerce event, that’s what’s happening in agency offices across Manhattan and around the country. Nancy Hall, CEO of Matterkind, Jessy Fofana, CEO of LaRue PR, Matt Wool, CEO of Acceleration Partners, and moderator Adam Weiss of Weiss Consulting came together to deliver a powerful session on how agencies are evolving as affiliate continues its rapid ascent.

Our speakers noted that channel convergence makes affiliate expertise more valuable to driving great results for brands. Each speaker talked about how customer centricity dictates an integrated go-to-market program and organization that embraces our various outcomes-focused channels and interconnects them with other media and touchpoints.

For PR firms, understanding and leveraging affiliate relationships help them adapt to the world where the wall between content and commerce has come down. The most forward-thinking PR agencies now incorporate affiliate management services into their value propositions.

Affiliates are now an essential part of delivering an outcomes-focused marketing initiative for digital agencies. Many of these providers now invest heavily in teams and tech to lead in the affiliate arena. Our industry gives multi-channel marketing services providers more ways to profitably serve their clients. For years, brands have been trying to deliver consistent brand experiences even as media splinters at a faster clip. Now savvy marketers ask their agencies to weave affiliate into that unified fabric.

Consistency can’t stop with the customer experience. Brands must present a unified front to publishers. Whether the audience is the publisher revenue group or editorial team, integration and synchronization maximize impact. Hybrid deals and multifaceted editor relationships can drive better results.

Further, affiliate brings accountability and performance to the digital advertising and PR spaces. For PR teams, having concrete business metrics to point to is a welcome development. For media professionals, affiliate data demonstrate tangible results and more ways to deliver meaningful storytelling.

For OPMs, channel integration creates opportunities to extend brand insights and successes across the entire marketing mix. Strong OPMs welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with other agencies and marketer teams to help ensure the best possible results. Fortunately, the skills that make their employees great at collaborating with partners transfer to relationships with advertising, PR, promotions, and other brand teams.

On the digital marketing agency side, affiliate adds meat to outcomes-based marketing strategies at every stage of the buying funnel. The rise of content and other new affiliate classes shifts the channel discussion from one focused solely on sales to recognizing the need for measurable outcomes at the top, middle, and bottom of the buying cycle. Enhanced measurement makes it possible to discuss performance more comprehensively and vividly.

Our speakers also noted that today’s clients are better informed and wiser about affiliate than ever before, which fosters greater willingness to experiment with new partnership types as they arise.

With more brand investment and more agencies competing for it, the need for expert talent has never been greater. One powerful insight was that while our industry has traditionally relied on the networks to train the next generation of leaders, agencies are now moving aggressively to build out the talent pool. As our investor panel discussed in an earlier session, increased complexity creates more opportunities to serve clients. But it demands that agencies hire, train, and retain experts in a constantly expanding number of areas.

Affiliate leadership now requires a broader set of skills and a commitment to constant personal and professional growth. Those skills protect margins and client relationships. No one wants “our” agencies to find themselves in the same sort of “race to the bottom” that has hobbled traditional advertising agencies for two decades.

Our thanks to Methuselah Advisors for their sponsorship of this session.

More Event Coverage (stream other panels below):

Content and Commerce Collide at the Latest Martech Record Event

Fragmentation and change create opportunity for industry investors

Brand and Publishers Expect Strong Industry Growth Despite Economy Challenges

Partnership Brings Remarkable Business Opportunities to “Old” and “New” Media

Check out photos of the panels and the rooftop cocktail hour.

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