Has the Affiliate Industry grown up and not for the better?
So I was at the Affiliates4U Conference today which is now confusingly called +PerformanceMarketingInsights
(eh?!) and held at the new venue of the Park Plaza hotel near Waterloo.
Over the years, my experience of this event has been quite favourable with lots of fun characters representing small 1-3 person companies and big ones alike. Everyone having stories to tell, new innovative tactics to drive sales through affiliate networks, and lots of money splashing around with champagne and beer flowing.
This time - it was SO different and felt pretty corporate. It's almost as if the industry has grown up and now represented mostly by agencies and tech companies trying to sell their new super-duper tracking solution. As soon as you walked in, you weren't sure whether you were at a formal corporate event with a whole security-laden floor just for meeting rooms and the other area that couldn't quite decide if it was a cheap showcase for small companies, a fun internet marketing gig with a small air ball machine and the odd ping pong table, or a big corporate sponsorship do. All just very strange.
Obviously, long gone are the days a small person could set up a performance marketing company (I mean specifically a small site that can get traffic from google and sell it to a publisher as opposed to a tech startup). These days you have to market cross-channel, cross-platform, and build a huge content marketing team and probably a whole team just to understand what a massive feature-fuck-fest +Google Analytics
The talks themselves were uninspiring and shallow - you know what I mean.. the outline of the talk sounds great but once you're in there you get the same old boring introductory talks that go on for a while but actually say nothing. In the "good old days" they used to be led by affiliates doing cutting edge thinking and strategies about what was working and not working for them - actual concrete things you could go away and explore more. A good example of this type of talk is always done by the +Distilled
guys with their SEO conferences; they understand the audience knows all the foundations and jump right in to advanced techniques and thought provoking material, from only the best people in the sector. I wish the Affiliates4U, sorry Performance Marketing Show Thing.. did that.
I remember one talk was a panel entitled "How to stop voucher code sites skimming the last sale" (or similar) yet just turned into a love-fest on how great the quality of the traffic is from the voucher codes and how big their sales are, while simultaneously saying that you could only stop relying on them if more publishers and advertisers shared data with each other - hmm.. There was only one instance where someone suggested that if Attribution was done correctly and not just relying on the "last-click" then more affiliates could be rewarded for doing something different like product research or branding.. Personally, I feel that the lovefest between voucher code / cashback sites and publishers is bad all round and short-term thinking. By only rewarding this last stage of the buying process - you stop any other affiliate from being motivated to do anything else and that's BAD! Anyway - point being that they skimmed over this purely because "no one really understands it or how to fix it"..
Just because a topic is difficult to solve and complicated does not mean that's it's a valid excuse not to try and delve into it and explore together. After all, that's why most people really go to these events - to learn new things, push the boundaries and challenge the current thinking of what everyone is doing.
One guy in the crowd had the best quote "I've been coming here from years and you always say the same old things and nothing changes!"
And you know what.. I completely agree. Sure, the industry might have grown up and everyone has had to become a proper business - but that doesn't mean that innovation has to end and that conferences have to be filled with shallow, uninspiring content that doesn't challenge anything. If this is how all sectors grow-up - I want out!
Any opposing views out there?