Interview with Adam Weiss, General Manager and SVP for Rakuten Affiliate Network

An increasing number of networks have major new-investor money behind them, funding more sophisticated technology and greater scale. Are networks inevitably going to get bigger, and will small networks be driven out?

The Affiliate Marketing channel has proven to be a very cost effective solution, and as a result its share of total digital marketing spend continues to grow.  Ongoing investments speak to the overall health of the industry.  There will always be different types of solutions in the channel, ranging from the turnkey offerings with no service, to a more all-inclusive suite of options that offers service, technology and insights.

The vanguard of Affiliate marketing will be the networks that enable advertisers and publishers of all sizes to work together more transparently through cutting edge technology and expertise; it will be the networks that can proactively work with their partners to harness internal program data to make connections that will improve not only their affiliate campaigns, but their customer’s experience across all digital channels.  And the service and channel expertise that a network provides will help brands take action on their data.

What should an advertiser using performance marketing be thinking about in 2017? 

Brands need to expand the way they traditionally use affiliate marketing, by using their data to test new applications for the channel. Affiliate lends itself to experimentation because it is a low risk environment where the CPS model serves to benefit, and brands can leverage the network effect – the ability to reach thousands of publishers quickly and efficiently.  Affiliate marketing allows advertisers to quickly run tests through a large network, a publisher type or with a single publisher. For example, brands can trial how the channel performs in driving a particular product sku with different device types, or with a wide mix of publishers, or just working with one partner.  Harnessing data to test out a hypothesis is a huge value that affiliate can offer to brands and publishers.

There have been several reports exposing the massive amount of fraud that is pervasive in the AdTech industry. Performance-based pricing seems like an obvious solution yet is still too often seen as the red-headed stepchild of online marketing. How do we bridge the gap?

In order to bridge the gap, the industry needs to position itself differently.  By leveraging data, building strategic partnerships, and broadening distribution beyond traditional means, we can truly redefine who we are in a meaningful way.

It is worth mentioning that Affiliate consumers tend to be well educated, independent consumers seeking genuine information.  Affiliate marketing allows shoppers to independently compare products, pricing and service.  Within an ecosystem of 1000s of publishers, consumers have the ability to cast a wider net in researching the right products and the best prices. What we have found is that consumers are interested and they seek out sites such as cash back, loyalty and blogs who offer real savings and authentic content.  They are fans of the channel, and they stay within the channel ecosystem. It is important that advertisers look to affiliate marketing not only as a pay-for-performance model, but as a growing marketing vehicle that continues to attract well educated and well informed consumers.


Adam Weiss is the General Manager & SVP for Rakuten Affiliate Network (formerly LinkShare), and is responsible for the P&L and strategic direction of the North American & European affiliate business. Adam has held multiple roles within Rakuten Affiliate Network, having joined the company in 2003. Prior to that time, he held publisher-facing positions at and 24/7 Media.