Blue Ribbon Panel: Interview with Ricky Ahuja by Chris Trayhorn, Publisher of mThink Blue Book, March 2, 2016 1. What did you learn from Affiliate Summit West? ASW was absolutely amazing this year. I was there on behalf of Click Syndicate and our booth was absolutely rocking. I actually learned a lot, mostly from meeting new people who are in the industry whom I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet before. It’s always good to get an idea of new trends in the industry. What struck me was the vast amount of international mobile networks out there I wasn’t familiar with. Also, maybe it was just me but it seemed hardly any of the previous big players in the industry were exhibiting. Instead, I saw more mobile technology companies, more analytics companies, and more Ad Networks. 2. How is big data going to impact the performance marketing industry? It is going to continue to revolutionize the performance marketing industry but with some consequences. As ad placements become more “Native” and targeting improves, the greater the amount of information that will need to be collected, segmented, organized, and analyzed to predict behaviors. Most online marketing initiatives will be become data driven as opposed to just basic demo media buys or basic site placement. Traditional CPA and CPL campaigns will be less of the norm since traffic generation will be more expensive and complex. I think there will be more mergers and acquisitions, with companies specializing in data generation and targeting. Data by itself is worthless unless it can be analyzed for the purpose of either identifying potentially interested consumers, or utilizing advanced algorithms to predict click behaviors. Who wants the click? Click then Close. Isn’t that the name of the game? 3. As networks begin to announce new optimization platforms, exchanges and “operating systems,” does this mean that investment in proprietary platforms will become a key competitive advantage again? Can commodity platforms like Tune and Cake keep up? I think proprietary systems will become more of a key competitive advantage just from an economic marketing standpoint. At ASW I met plenty of networks from Europe mostly specializing in mobile offers that had built their own proprietary systems. I think this industry and online marketing in general is in a bit of a merger and acquisition mode and has been for quite some time. Companies trying to put themselves in a position to be acquired need to have technologies that are unique to themselves, so they must build proprietary systems. Also, for the commodity based ones that are SAS’ such as Tune and Cake, not to mention Linktrust. I am somewhat partial to Linktrust, but either way these platforms will have to change as the industry changes. In order for the platforms to remain viable and keep up with advancements in a few years, they will need to focus more on internal campaign management and media buys. They will need to become more compatible with media buy management. Outside of the current mobile device tracking advances, they will need to have more API integrations with Ad-Networks such as Revcontent, Advertise.com, and other similar companies to become a one stop shop for tracking internal marketing operations and third party publishers. That’s how I see the tracking game. 4. Over the last two years has it become harder or easier for newbie affiliates to enter the industry and make money? Why? I think it has become more difficult for newbies. That isn’t to say I am discouraging trying something new professionally – to seek your fortune is the American way. I encourage that. The difficulty has more to do with the landscape of performance based marketing changing quickly. There are more technologies and more options making it more difficult for a newbie to find their place or a good starting point. But this is coming from somebody who has been in the industry for a while. Perhaps all these options will come more easily to the current newbie affiliate millennials as they grew up with social networking as a regular part of their lives. 5. If you were a CMO for a major brand, what would be the three most important questions that you would ask prospective network partners? My questions would be integrity based as the Brand and its good standing are more important than the additional eyeballs networks would provide. I would ask what familiarity they had with our brand? What other major brands do they currently work with and have worked with in the past, and what would be the plan for ours? What do they consider a successful campaign and what changes would they make to previous efforts? I would want their honest feedback before trusting a company with the major brand I represent. About A serial entrepreneur, Ricky Ahuja has been known and well respected in the affiliate industry now going on 15 years, for his strong acumen as an online marketer and social media expert. His former agency Affiliate Crossing is constantly ranked in the Top 10 on the “Top 10 Networks” and was most recently ranked as a Top 10 CPA Affiliate Network on Blue Book survey by Revenue Performance. A passionate writer, blogger and traveler – always looking for the next adventure. Filed under: Interviews, Revenue, Revenue Blog Tagged under: affiliate marketing, affiliate networks, Interviews About the Author Chris Trayhorn, Publisher of mThink Blue Book Chris Trayhorn is the Chairman of the Performance Marketing Industry Blue Ribbon Panel and the CEO of mThink.com, a leading online and content marketing agency. He has founded four successful marketing companies in London and San Francisco in the last 15 years, and is currently the founder and publisher of Revenue+Performance magazine, the magazine of the performance marketing industry since 2002.