The CPA network space is in tumult. If your favorite CPA network isn’t dead already, it’s probably refinancing, merging or crouching in a defensive posture.
Tough times, man. Tough times.
There’s no doubt that CPA as a marketing model still has a big future, but the question is which players will still be in the game? What are the keys to survival for those networks that are left standing after the storm?
The rapid influx of easy money into the CPA networks over the last couple of years was not without its advantages. Not only did it facilitate the growth of new behemoths of opportunity like Facebook and Zynga, but it also allowed some of the larger networks to generate the revenues needed to finance the development of custom platforms. Those that invested like that are mostly in good shape today.
But many network executives chose to invest in Ferraris and McMansions instead and, even if they’re still in business today, they’re the ones who will struggle moving forward.
The basic functionality of a CPA network is available now for virtually zero cost – it holds no value in itself any more. But commoditization applies to other factors too: many networks share a good proportion of their publisher set. Many run very similar offers from advertisers that are all but identical. And the reporting and network functionality seems the same because, in many cases, it is the same.
And so, to a great extent, CPA networks look like so many peas in a pod. There is nothing to make one stand out from another.
Go take a peek at the home pages of a dozen CPA networks. You can pretty much take the language from any one and it will fit right on any of the others. Apart from a few exceptions, CPA networks are fighting a battle to stand out from the crowd of networks just like them.
So how do we pick a winner?
The answer is that the winners will be those that have something special to sell. A secret sauce.
When all the offers are the same, how does a publisher pick a network with which to work?
When every network agrees to work on a pay-for-performance basis, and that all their publishers are Catholic nuns, how does an advertiser choose between them?
If there is no difference, what’s the difference?
Brand was developed as a concept to address the exact problem that these networks now face, but how many truly understand what it means for them. For the future of their company? and of our industry?
Brand is a way to differentiate. It is a way to appeal to the emotional as well as the rational and the measurable. It’s about giving one’s product attributes that make it the favorite of the customer.
“What’s your favorite network” is the question we asked in our recent BLUE BOOK Top 20 survey. We phrased it like that for a reason: becoming a favorite network – a favorite network brand – is how the winners are going to win in the next 12 months.
If you run a network, or you partner with a network, and you can’t say in 30 seconds why it’s different from its competitors, then you know there’s a problem that needs fixing.
Did I mention that we have a marketing solutions division?
More on branding for networks, publishers and advertisers next week!