“I can run my own affiliate program, Chris. Why should I use a network?” said the CMO of a major advertiser to me last week. “Half the time they’re going to feed me crappy traffic and the rest of the time they’re just going to add 20% to my costs.”

Dear reader, you would have been proud of me. I didn’t spill my coffee or even choke on my cookie. Instead I ticked off my response, “I take your point, except I think you’re forgetting the built-in fraud prevention technology, the risk management, the publisher screening, the incredible long-tail distribution, the multi-channel expertise, the campaign and creative development, the legal and regulatory advice, the scalability… oh, and all the staff members that you could avoid having to recruit, train and manage. There’s a reason that networks and OPMs exist. It’s because it’s really hard to do all that yourself for 20%.”

She came around in the end – I can be pretty persuasive – but the point of quoting the conversation is that all too often the case for performance marketing has not been made effectively. And in my experience this applies most in the C-suites of leading brand owners and agencies. Affiliate marketing is still the red-headed stepchild of marketing in many companies.

Over a year ago I wrote one of the most commented upon articles ever in Revenue/Blue Book. “In Defense Of Networks” discussed how critical some publishers are about their performance marketing network partners, yet how those same publishers remain oblivious to what those same networks actually do, day-to-day, to help publishers thrive. I believe that much the same syndrome applies to many advertisers today. They simply have no idea of how far we have come in terms of managing risks and successfully driving revenues. Considering that performance marketing is all about selling, the industry as a whole has done a poor job of changing hearts and minds.

How do we attack this issue? In essence we are talking about transitioning the “brand” of the performance marketing industry and as anyone in marketing knows, changing brand associations takes time and effort. In other industries, the traditional approach is for the leading companies to engage in coopetition:

“They cooperate with each other to reach a higher value creation compared to the value created without interaction and struggle to achieve competitive advantage.”
The advantage of coopetition is that no one network has to bear all the costs involved in the sustained outreach necessary to reach big brand CMOs. And as attitudes change, the rising tide lifts all boats.

This seems like an idea for which the time has come. I have some ideas that I’ll more of in the coming days, but in the meantime, email editor at mthink dot com and let me know your thoughts.