There are no affiliate networks that offer agency services.
It doesn’t matter if they focus on CPA or lead generation, of if they are publicly traded or private. None of them offer agency services.
Yes, I just said that, risking the ire of hundreds of networks. But I say it because it is true. And the reason is that networks are a just small piece of the agency puzzle. Only a true online performance marketing agency that incorporates multiple client support teams can offer true internet agency services.
Take a look at the most recent Blue Book Top 20 rankings listed online at mthink.com/bluebook. None of the Top 20 networks – whether classified as affiliate networks or CPA networks – offer agency services. Many of them, of course, have large sales teams, affiliate/account managers and operations staffs, and these are an absolute necessity for any network that wants to be competitive. Those networks that also have their own tech and creative departments have a significant advantage, as well.
However, none of these departments provide the bandwidth, mindset or a holistic view of client goals to really perform agency-type tasks. What’s missing? I would suggest that the critical requirement is for dedicated client services and analytics teams, set up to optimize lead acquisition through backend performance. This kind of approach results in genuine ROI improvement when carried out weekly, monthly and quarterly. But where are the networks that are really organized that way?
Another area that will become ever more important for organizations wishing to provide genuine interactive agency services is quality. Quality will always drive better performance and improved brand protection, and so over time only networks that have their own internal sources for all media channels where they can control quality will win out.
Consider the services and functions that many networks use to promote themselves to prospective advertisers:
- Providing clients with a tracking platform. This is not an agency service even if the clients are big brands.
- Creating landing pages, emails and banners. Producing creatives is a traditional agency function but these days won’t get you a seat at the table for agency RFPs.
- Using a call center to verify leads. A great value-add but really only a small part of the performance marketing equation and process.
- Budgeting out media spend for your partners without following through on media buys is closest to the agency model. That said, industry knowledge and quality control will still be missing.
- Media buying on Facebook or contextual networks. This is good for control, but it doesn’t cover the other major sources such as email, traditional display, SEM/SEO, Coreg, etc.
The fact is that affiliate networks aren’t set up to provide the deep analytics and focus on customer goals that true agencies offer. It doesn’t mean that networks can’t develop these functions, but it takes a change of approach.
To take my own network as an example, when I am presenting to a client, I don’t sell the Monetizeit Affiliate Network. A network alone is not an agency. The network is just one component in the total solution. Rather, I promote the larger organization of MediaWhiz as the authentic online performance marketing agency. MediaWhiz is able to cover the entire media landscape by utilizing up to 40 people within affiliate, search, social media, display advertising, email marketing and data acquisition. Additionally, we have a big tech division that in turn complements our client services, analytics, operations and creative divisions.
All of that together, working in unison in pursuit of the client’s goals, is what true “agency services” requires. The affiliate network is just one component. The control of media, supplemented by strategic partners, along with critical oversight by service teams, is what creates the modern interactive agency of media planning, execution, analytics, and an ROI-focus.
Worth noting, Ad Age recently ranked MediaWhiz #6 in Search and #185 in overall revenue amongst all agencies.
Peter S. Klein
Peter S. Klein is SVP of Media Services for MediaWhiz, a division of the SolutionSet MediaWhiz Partnership. He is responsible for the internal media buying practice and is also charged with growing the AdNet Display Advertising and Data Acquisition divisions. Consistent with his former role as GM of Monetizeit, the MediaWhiz Affiliate Network, Peter still oversees the division to ensure that advertisers and publishers maximize their ROI and continually improve their results. Prior to joining MediaWhiz, he was Director of Affiliate Marketing for RocketProfit.com where he developed and launched the affiliate network. He has also held positions in both traditional and interactive media companies such as Cablevision Systems Corporation, Barnes & Noble’s enews.com and Publishers Clearing House. He holds a BS in Business Management and Marketing from Cornell University.