In so many ways, affiliate marketing is an amazing positive in the world. It offers many affiliates a chance to make money independently for the very first time, or to finance the traffic to a passion project. In general, it rewards initiative, intelligence, and hard work. What is not to love?
Yet, so often, it also finds itself as a key enabler of “griftonomics”, of which cryptocurrency is the archetype: a Ponzi scheme built upon snake oil, funded by a wealthy top tier eager to cash out by milking money out of anyone they could draw into their net. In retrospect, it was the perfect CPA offer at $40 a pop: unlimited budget, no caps, and a target audience of anyone who wanted to be rich. What was not to love?
But now the fat lady has sung. Crypto is crashing and the CPA is down to $2 or less. Tens of thousands of people have lost money while a few have made millions. Affiliate marketing carries on, the equivalent of the folks who made money during the California gold rush by selling picks and shovels: a good business, even if some of the customers are a little foolish.
It’s the influencers I have a problem with.
You can decide for yourself if you believe Elon when he says he never told anyone to buy crypto (in as many words, he did), or if you think that Logan Paul’s 20 million followers are well-served by his financial advice (they’re not), but the undeniable truth is that influencers have become important to our customers, and so we should be watching the fallout from the crypto crash carefully.
Even Matt Damon’s reputation has been tarnished – and who doesn’t love Matt Damon? – by his now-infamous 60-second Superbowl ad promoting Crypto.com. “Fortune favors the brave,” he told us as he strolled past pictures of famous explorers. $1,000 invested in Bitcoin at that time would be worth around $500 now. Brave!
And don’t let’s get started on Gary Vee. No, seriously, let’s not go there.
Influencers are a big part of the affiliate marketing ecosystem, but when a whole offer segment like crypto goes sour to the point that ten of thousands of consumers have been burned and Congress is holding hearings, then as an industry we can only expect even tougher advertiser guidelines from TikTok and Facebook, and increasingly demanding compliance rules. Crypto has been good to a lot of folk in the industry. It hasn’t come without a price.