As we all know, the performance marketing industry is growing rapidly. Due to economic conditions, more marketers are moving online and more online marketers are using the pay-for-results model to deliver the results they seek. Add to the mix the rapid pace of technological innovation and the desire for more brands and agencies to sink their teeth into our industry and it’s easy to see we are at a major inflection point for performance marketing. In order to seize the opportunity, we have to take a step back and examine the role that trust and integrity play in our future success.

First, let’s examine the WHAT…what integrity means in our industry. Generally, integrity implies that you deliver on your word. Specifically in our industry, integrity means being open with your business partners on both sides of a transaction and being an advocate for their success. For performance marketers this means sharing in success and learning from failure in a constructive way. The performance model implies an unspoken covenant that says the advertiser and publisher will act in good faith to create campaigns that succeed without risking the integrity of a brand or a publisher.

Now let’s examine the WHY … why is integrity so important to the industry as we assess our opportunity? To the folks who pay our bills – the advertisers – the value proposition of paying only for results is a no-brainer if we remove any risk to the brands they have worked so hard to build. Integrity is enabling the advertiser to make a spend decision on performance marketing without the fears that existed after the abuse of the late ’90s. The industry needs to be made transparent in order to protect and empower everyone (publisher, advertiser, network and consumer). We cannot tolerate fraudulent behavior from either publishers or advertisers. Collectively, we have to look past short-term gains in revenue to solidify the future growth we want to have as an industry. Proactive self-regulation vs. reactive will earn the trust of our advertisers and publishers as we are all responsible for each other as members of the performance marketing community.

Our goal as an industry, is to grow by gaining the trust of larger brands and agencies that are looking to allocate new or increased budget to performance marketing. It’s a simple vision to state, but a harder one to execute. The industry has to work together to continue to promote innovation, trust, integrity, and proactive, collaborative partnerships.

Now to the HOW … How do we build integrity in the industry? Execution is always the hard part. On a high level, we have to build and fund industry organizations like the PMA (Performance Marketing Alliance) that provide education, research and thought leadership. We need to fund quality research from the analyst firms that advertisers seek out when assessing marketing channels. We need to self-police to make sure all the constituents in our ecosystem are safeguarding the best interests of our business partners and community.

Finally, we need to harness the wave of innovations made in technology and process to make sure our offerings fit into the broader needs of the advertising community. The intelligent application of innovative technologies will lend transparency and integrity to our activities because they will allow our advertisers and publishers to see the results they are looking for in a more fluid fashion that empowers them to succeed.

The last question is the WHEN … and it’s the simplest answer. NOW!

I’d welcome your thoughts on this issue. The more great minds we have spending effort on building the integrity of our industry, the higher chance of success we will have together. If you have thoughts, feel free to reach out to me.