#11 Building Leading SaaS Tools For The Affiliate Marketing | Chris Tradgett

Hello, welcome to another episode of the Always
Be Testing podcast. I'm your host Ty DeGrange, and I am thrilled to talk with Chris Tradgett
today. Welcome Chris. Thanks very much. Uh, great to talk to you again. Uh, it's been a
while since we met back in, uh, back in April. Yeah, absolutely. I think we're in Miami for
PI Live. Yeah. Awesome. So good to have you on today. And I'm really excited about this
conversation. For those of you who don't know, Chris is a true affiliate marketing legend,
veteran.

He's built products from the ground up, launched publisher discovery to acquisition,
and is now building Moonpull. He's had some great experiences, so ready to dive in with
him today. And thanks so much for joining us. Great. It's a pleasure. Absolutely. So maybe
just starting off, tell us about your background, Chris. I know people would find it fascinating.
Somebody as old as me goes back a long way. So I started off out of college, ran a pub for
four years, or in a state, I call it a bar, but basically ran a pub, which was an interesting
thing and made me vow never to ever think in terms of going into running a pub or running
anything, dealing with kind of… food and drink and things. But yeah, that's that was
fun. Then an art material shop, which I thought no, Chris, is there is there any similarity
between maybe managing a pub and managing affiliates? No, that's about the key thing is about the
relationships and, and if you've got the relationships right with your regulars in a pub, then they
come back and you You know what they're doing.

You've got an idea what they're about. If somebody
you know has an argument with a friend in the pub and you know them, then it's fine. If they
don't know them, you worry. Luckily with an affiliate, you don't get those kinds of arguments.
It tends to be more about attribution or yeah, yeah. You know the game. I love it. I interrupted your kind of background
story to kind of delve into that a little bit, but…

We'd love to hear more if you have more
to share there. Yeah, I think they call it a patchwork portfolio career. So after the pub,
I ran an art material shop because my degree was in history of arts and fine arts and things
like that. Fell then into working with a friend who had a print company and I started typesetting
on an eight inch Mac. If you can imagine the fun of, well actually before that, I was sending
stuff using extremely early versions of HTML where we specified the font, close font and
all of that stuff and we sent that stuff down a 4800 board modem to a place that printed out
the galleys of text which you then glued down with wax.

Old school type setting stuff so I
did it that way then we bought an 8 inch mac and the excitement of that. You couldn't see
the page but you knew that you were doing stuff you had to move the page around to work it on
page maker one. where things are going to be. But that was exciting because you had a whole
page of stuff at once with no galleys, no cutting. Yeah. So yeah, I got involved in on screen stuff
way back then.

Then I sold. That's amazing. Sold newspaper advertising, ended up joining
a design agency and was what they call a bank carrier in Britain. Basically I was kind of
running from the studio to the clients and it might be anything from. a mining machinery
company to Procter and Gamble. So it's kind of all sorts of different types of stuff. As
part of that, well, I got involved from a local charity with these kind of fundraising web shops
from a company called Biatt. This is about middle of 2002, early 2002 and about six shops
in it, Marks and Spencer's and the two or three others and whatever.

And as is the want of design
agencies, when Procter and Gamble decided they were moving all of their stuff to London, got
made redundant, but then bizarrely, as part of my kind of design work, I think some work
for GE, and needed something to do some database stuff. So this is why we're still rolling, and
needed somebody to do it, found somebody via a friend of a friend, and met Steve Brown on
the… roundabout in Surrey. We went to GE's office, won the contract. We did this kind of
multiple multi-language mailer for events in Switzerland and Portugal and whatever I think
it was anyway. And then that was the only time I've met Steve, bizarre kind of meeting in a
cafe Can I ask you, how did you guys pull that off? Raining GE is,
especially at that time, was it quite a coup? Can you share more about what do you think got
the deal done? I think with a fairly innovative agency, which is quite cool, we've done quite
a lot of mailings for P&G anyway, that kind of stuff.

But there weren't many people who
could deal with. I think multi-language, multi-country database management from which we then pulled
out the lists for mailing and I kind of put together the structure for the mailing envelope,
contents, all the rest of it and that was all mailed out successfully and I got several hundred
people, bum's on seats as they call it in the UK, to enable them to have these conferences
and… I would imagine each one of the contracts they win from these conferences was worth a
fortune.

So I think if I recall that contract was about 14,000 pounds UK. So and that was
2001. So it's a long, it's a lot of cash back And then kind of whilst I was kicking my heels
after the P&G were tried up, somebody mentioned that this company, Perfiliate in Newcastle was
looking for somebody. And so I gave a call and it turned out it was Steve Brown's bunch
again. So I ended up December 2002 at Byatt, which within a space of a month or so, Mal Cowley
and Paul Fellows and Steve had eventually kind of thought, actually, we can turn this into
a network.

So By mid-03, we were an affiliate network as well, which was a bit of fun. We
started winning some good contracts. I think in 04, we held our first event, not quite a
conference, but a first affiliate event where we were entirely unusual amongst networks that
we encouraged our advertisers to meet with our affiliates. If you were at one of the other
big networks, they were always chaperoned or they were never allowed to meet or they were
told, our affiliates are unique and unusual and you need to just trust us.

But we set up
these over the years, set up these events called Speakeas, which started in a pub in London.
And of course, so we kind of, the guy from BT, which is like the UK's at the time, the
UK's biggest mobile phone operator. broadband operator was absolutely gobsmacked. He turned,
he says, oh, I would love to have a chat with him. He says, yeah, have a chat, have a beer.
What do you fancy? And he says, you don't want to come and sit with him? Why, it's your business,
it's his business.

It's nothing to do with me. We're just the enablers. So that was, I
think, the start of transparency in the affiliate. There wasn't any beforehand. There was no transparency
for one of the networks who actually had a 2.5, 2.5. 250% override on one of its programs.
We wanted not knowing what's going on because we said that, oh yeah, the affiliate commission
at 20 pounds, you add a 30%, so 26 pounds. So we went in and won the contract on that and
got a very high rate phone call.

A few days later when the previous network, we realized
that being earning 50 pounds but only paying the affiliate 20. So. That was an interesting
kind of shakedown in the affiliate marketplace. And yeah, it's exciting running a network and
or being part of involved in network started with four of us. And then by 2007 or so they
were forgotten how many stuff, I think, 50 odd staff and about 70 million turnover if I
remember. So then we had some of the biggest programs in the world really think about Ticketmaster,
Apple, a whole bunch of other stuff like that. In your experience, what would you say kind
of you started to identify as your superpower or what you gravitated to in the affiliate industry
as you got started and grew by it? I think it's honesty, transparency. At the time, we
had a policy of if we were defaulted on by an advertiser, and they weren't paying their
bills, we will pay the affiliates anyway, which Seems to go down quite well with affiliates,
as you probably understand.

And that was without kind of insurance against it or whatever. So
there were a few tricky moments, as you probably understand in the early days, but it came back
rewarded in much firmer relationships with all the affiliates. And of course the advertisers
responded to that, knowing that we had really loyal affiliate base behind us as well. those taking advantage of that or do you think
that's a policy that could be continued in some capacity because it's a fascinating idea?
I think perhaps it's a slightly kind of trickier world and things are happening on so much bigger
scale now.

Back in those days, programs were not massive necessarily and now it's gone wrong.
Back then, you know, affiliate being five, six percent of a company's turnover, it can
now be 18, 20 percent and that's big bucks. It's a big deal for a lot of advertisers. So,
and actually for any organization being able to have the spare cash capacity to manage somebody
going down, particularly at a time between say 2008, 2010, those kind of periods, a company
can go pop like that Not doable again, but it's a great gimmick at
the time maybe. Yeah, you're not quite a bank, as they say, so it doesn't really make sense.
But as we will get to in this episode, perhaps technology is the answer and transparency through
technology, which we'll get to.

And I think transparency came the next bit we were playing
at, kind of after buyout, we sold buyout to AOL for a lot, which is very nice. And then,
yeah, it was a, it was a, well, a lot of very, very hard work by Steve Brown, who is the, the
guy that managed the whole process, running between lawyers offices for about a year or
so from the sound of things. And after AOL, it's been a year, a couple of years, going to
suck in the juice out of it and ruining it like it does with most companies. So you can
edit that out if you want. Yeah, A-Win came in and I would say potentially rescued. Byatt
was still about the biggest network in the UK at the time, still out of all the mobile
phone networks, the Byatt network ran every one but one.

All but Vodafone was still on Byatt
network. I was running Sky TV program, we had Ticketmaster, huge numbers of big programs.
and yeah, kind of millions a month in terms of affiliate commissions, which is kind of what
you want to hear going on. I left shortly after the acquisition by A-Win and went client-side
for a year and had a bit of fun. It's quite different actually kind of starting a program
app and actually started the program and launched on CJ, which as it was in web hosting, it made
most sense because pretty much every other web hosting provider was on CJ. That's where
the affiliates were. And I think the information I got from doing that was it's bloody hard recruiting
affiliates, damn well getting affiliates on your program if you're new and untried.

So that's
really, really tough. But it's also hard actually finding affiliates. And that was a real, real
issue. And Google search is not the way to go. Back in 2010, stroke 11, that's all I had
to go on. And so… got the program up and running. It's still running very successfully
on CJ. So it must be doing the right kind of stuff. It's still, and it was cutting its numbers
even from the quite early days when I had quite a few really quite nice loyal old friends from
affiliate who were the guys who were the mainstay of the initial affiliates in the program.

So
it was a good learning experience from my perspective on that side of the industry. After that, I'm trying to think, oh, it's what
I was doing that Steve Brown gave me a phone call again, I think. And he'd just started up
an SEO company or was got involved in and invested in a company called LinkDex, which you may have
come across, which was trying to become a competitor to conduct through a bright edge in those kind
of people. It was doing some pretty good stuff. So I ended up kind of going there doing marketing
and selling and it was I'm not a specialist in anything you know as you can tell from my
kind of checkered history running pubs and selling advertising so I can pretty much cut
myself to anything so I ended up doing marketing and running events and what else we were doing
oh yeah I was selling as well so it goes into agencies to the LinkDex product.

From very early
on, I said to Steve, hey, we could find affiliates for this, couldn't we? Because it was basically
a backlink analysis. So from that, Steve and I kind of basically worked out, okay, and within
the space of a few months, we had an early version of what was called LinkDex Publisher
Discovery. Got a few good clients on board. And then LinkDex was acquired in 2016. or late
2015, early 2016. And they felt, right, we're gonna concentrate on the SEO stuff, don't want
this affiliate stuff. And I said, well, I'll give you a fiverr for the software, for the
data.

It turned out a bit more than a fiverr, but basically I was kind of, we kind of, I took
on myself and a colleague, the two of us, took on that, set up a separate company. And we started
off with kind of clients like, like Apple was one of our clients and Adidas, some fairly big
clients who were using us to find affiliates. And we started working with a whole load of
other people that DAZN doesn't, I forgot now, DAZN will be a thing that states here, which
is doing kind of sports stuff.

And they just needed to find, okay, we're gonna set up in
Canada, we need some Canadian affiliates like now. And so it was kind of, it was quite fun
doing that stuff. But it was really manual because it's based on a list of SEO stuff. But
it actually enabled us to analyze the data in some detail and find the appropriate affiliates.
So 2016, we grew that to reasonable enough to be able to be going to most of the conferences.
So we did quite a few affiliates, some at East and West, and Germany, Amsterdam, Barcelona.
So we did quite a few events signing up.

And also in the gambling area, which is quite different.
We discovered how different gambling and Forex is as an affiliate market. So those differences
are quite marked, as you probably know yourself. So that was quite fun. 2018, somebody came knocking
on the door saying, we've got this thing which is AI based and it deals with a network's internal
affiliates. And they were working with a small, UK network called Affiliate Future and analyzing
their internal affiliates to match affiliate with advertiser. Quite clever. And so they acquired
our data and acquired us. So which was quite nice to be able to sell a company and carry
on working with it. So we helped to develop that process and develop that product. So it's
a machine learning and AI driven version of publishing. So no longer lists, you're working
on a platform. and you say, yeah, I want the kind of affiliates who work with, say, three,
four networks, but are also working in, say, pet foods or in fashion or whatever it might
be.

And the other beauty for an advertiser's point of view is they can go into publisher
discovery and say, right, I'm Bloomingdale's, who's on the Macy's program. And you can just
hit the button and you come up with all Macy's two and a half thousand publishers that have
got public links on their site. Really simple. And then there's the ability to kind of find
the email address within the platform, contact them, recruit them. So yeah, that was fun. What
would you say kind of fueled the growth of publisher discovery? Obviously that's a really
compelling value proposition. You had growth leading up to the introduction of AI, you had
growth after that. Can you tell us a little bit more about… What do you think led to the
success of publisher discovery? I think it was because, well, as I identified when trying
to do it myself, it's really tough finding affiliates.

And the usual way is just kind of
trolling through Google by keyword, which is a real longhand way of doing it. Publishers
discovery, they will use a short kind of shortcut that. manual version just by looking at awin1.com
or quickserve.com and the other domains for CJ and whatever. It was clunky but it worked.
It enabled you to look at all of those guys and work out which ones are appropriate and
then you can work out which ones are then connected to which programs so you can see, ah right,
they're the guys promoting Dell so they're obviously in the right sector so therefore you
can then segment the right bunch and then start recruiting.

That's, this is the shortcut bit,
isn't it? It just saved hours. And I think one of the networks that worked with this said,
it saved about five hours a week of affiliate recruiting, which is significant for an account
manager type period. So that kind of stuff, it pays for it. And Chris, with regard to the
networks, were you technically tapping via API to… to be able to enable that or was it
by some other integration or partnership? No, all the data is public domain. So it's, it's
kind of, if you do a backlink analysis for a win one.com, you come up with a great list
of using SEM rush or whatever it might be. Um, actually UTM based identification, right?
And not even necessarily that, because if you, if you look at a win one.com forward slash,
and it will have an A equals blah B. v equals such and such. Same going into impact. It's
very simple. It's domain.com. So link structure? Number dot slash. Yeah, exactly. So link structure
was the only thing you needed to determine who was linking to who in the affiliate industry.
Exactly.

Yeah. It's that simple. So just finding on who's TM75, whatever it is. I've forgotten
the numbers now, but yeah. The Ticketmaster one on impact now is TM75.net slash C slash
blah. Piece of cake to decipher it. So not that complex. That's great. When you're building,
you're thinking about product development, you know, there's, this will come up probably
in other topics as well, but how were you able to kind of prioritize building products like
these? and kind of informing what you're doing now with Moonpull. I'm curious to learn more,
especially for those interested in product, those interested in partner marketing related
products. Really fascinating to hear more about your background there. Yeah, I think with Publisher
Discovery, it was kind of, we were slaloming, kind of just, oh, that works, try that. And
if that comes back with money on it, then… great you carry on with it. And it's about understanding
where it can go to. So we publish a discovery, you thought, OK, yeah, we can do that. And then
you can flip it on its head and do something which is publisher side.

So looking for programs,
what are the potential for that? And understanding what you can do with the data. And just being
slightly more creative with the data you're working with to come up with something which
somebody wants to buy. And if, and the key thing is, is it going to save somebody time
and effort? Cause that's the goal of any automation. If you can automate something, it's got to make
it faster, make it simpler, make it slicker, make it actually deliver what you want without
all the usual problems you'd have with, you know, go back to Google search or, you know,
is it got a website who owns it? Um, I can't find who's the, who is for it.

Those kinds of
stuff. You avoid all of that because it's all. It's all there, it's all dealt with. And that's
what we were trying to do, stuff which is a no brainer. Oh, why wouldn't you do that? And
I think the same things inform the things we're doing with Moonpull. How about doing this? Oh
yeah, that's great, but it's not urgent. So that goes down the road to six months time for
another facing product. And just recently, just conversations with people at conferences
has led to us thinking, actually no. what we thought might be the route to go by talking
to people about how we could save them time and make life easier for them, but also more
importantly make things actually work better for them.

We just changed the way we look at
stuff and changed the way we position the product. Don't be frightened. Completely ditch an avenue
you started going up because you think that's the right thing. If you talk to people and they
think, no, just ditch it, bring it back later, maybe as an additional part to another part
of the product as a later date, but follow where people are actually wanting the time and
effort to be put in from their perspective, always follow what somebody wants rather than
what you only sell.

How do you think about the kind of gathering of qualitative and quantitative
customer feedback and discovery and understanding what customer needs, what are the paying customers
looking for, what are they not looking for, what are their pain points to kind of uncover
those great value props in product. How would you approach that with both? Yeah, in terms
of kind of understanding how people are using it, it's great to use, I mean, it's amazing
that tools like Amplitude cost nothing, which is barmy, absolutely nuts. If you use Amplitude,
if you're building a product… get amplitude built into it from the ground up. You then have
an idea of exactly what people are doing inside your app, your website. You really understand
then, oh yes, they are doing that. Oh no, nobody actually touches that button ever. So, okay,
it's not adding value. Maybe hold a little bit of a focus group with some of your stronger
users, say, have you looked at this? Yeah, it doesn't do much for us. In which case, you
think, yeah, pointless.

Let's move on to something else. And it enables you to kind of to look
at behaviors without even having to go to some hot jar of looking at people in a microscopic
level of clicking on a page. The amplitude will tell you what they're clicking on. And
then you can assess across, you know, 10, 100,000 users, which parts are most useful, what the
usual routes are. And then you just make those routes easier. Those kinds of things. And if
that's what's important. then you have to make sure the UI is doing the same thing, following
the same process. So you make those simple routes to visually follow. That way it makes
it much faster for people to find the stuff they want. That's awesome. With Moonpull, how
did that kind of get sparked, kicked off? How was the genesis of Moomple? It's entirely a
product of Steve's massive brain. Steve has an ability to create a vision from half an idea
and build stuff. It worked very well with, with Bajat of course, and it's worked pretty
well since then. And Moonpool's no different.

He has an uncanny ability to create from a raw
vision, something that can actually work. And the fact that this is my third journey with
Steve proves that I probably think in a usefully similar way, but maybe. with a bit of a Venn
diagram thing, I do stuff with you. And he says, yeah, you're future gazing, Chris. So
I'm normally kind of four months down the road where Steve's trying to make stuff happen now.
But having that ability to kind of, to think around a product and I can think, okay, yeah,
it'd be nice to be able to get to that kind of stuff. I reckon from conversations, this
would be really useful, but we don't know that yet. Let's have a look and see if we can get.
the lily pad to get across the pond to make that work. If you know my visually. No, I love
it. And it, with your collaboration with Steve, what has made it work? It sounds like there's
elements of forward-thinking here and now visionary.

Uh, an integrator. How do you, how do you balance
that? It sounds really, really cool. Um, I don't think it's that complex. Steve's the guy
with the original vision. I just basically try and I try and put some jam on the bread
and butter, which hopefully some of the ideas stick. Some of them have worked, which is great.
And some of them will work in future, I'm sure, because I think there's some pretty cool things
I think we can be doing with Moonpull. We're coming along, we're doing some very exciting
stuff now with Moonpull verifications, so it enables programs to say, yes, this works. It's
worked every week for the past X.

You know, so we, the automated system enables people to
check a program and audit the program weekly, make sure that the links work as you would expect
to them. And the toughest part is actually understanding what's happening in that handover,
the affiliate handover process between the publisher side and the advertiser. And so much
technology now becomes involved that Things can get in the way, things like consent management
platforms which are becoming, well they've been an issue across the whole of Europe and
UK certainly, but now you've got something like 10 states, or is it now 11 states in the
US, all of whom now have privacy regulations coming in that are requiring people to say yes,
I'm okay with cookies, or don't sell my data, or for some reason every single state seems
to be different.

Which seems bizarre to me, across here, across, but there you go. But that
kind of stuff can interfere with, you know, when according to, I think, where it was, I
think one of the magazines was stating that something around 48 to 50% of consumers reject
cookies and don't accept. That can be really quite scary if you're running an affiliate program.
So if only half of your cookies are likely to be rejected, then… I think affiliate cookies
need to be dealt with slightly different third or first party. Third party of course will disappear
soon, but your first party cookie, if it's coming from a site where the consumer understands
that there's a relationship, then it should not be dealt with as a marketing one. It should
be dealt with as a necessary one. I think it's very much as James Little has argued quite forcibly
across various conferences recently that somebody coming from a cashback site…

The contracts
have started with a cashback site, not with the landing on the advertiser's page, because
they want their cash back. If that's held up by a first party cookie, which is not necessary,
then the whole premise of the contract is broken. So cash back and to some extent maybe coupon
sites, the cookie should be allowed to run through. Interesting. there's going to have
to be and what do you think the end goal of that debate is? Because you kind of jumped into
that topic. Is there going to have to be some kind of a, um, almost nexus like national or
state ruling because it feels like there's a number of like vocal voices arguing on both
sides with legitimate.

You know, questions. Where do you think that's going? Where do we
think we land in years down the road? or months? In the US it's difficult to say. In Europe of
course we've segmented, fragmented again slightly but even though UK is no longer effectively
part of the EU, most companies in the UK follow EU law because it's the only way you're going
to sell into Europe. You're not going to do it by adopting a different legal standard. In
the US it's very difficult, different anyway because you had as you say the Amazon Nexus.
issue, there will be issues when you're dealing with something which is not just say for instance
statewide, it's not like popping along to your local 7-Eleven or Walmart.

Stuff is national
or global. If you combine from Kaspersky, you're buying from Kaspersky anywhere in the world
or same with Dell. I looked on CJ the other day, I think there's 30 odd separate programs,
they're all totally separate, all with different… legal parameters for Germany, for Spain, for
US, for UK, etc. So it's very difficult for an advertiser to deal with all of those legal
parameters. From a publisher point of view, they don't have necessarily that viewpoint and
the understanding of the legal stuff. So it's really tough. And it's one that can only kind
of work well through transparency, through an understanding between… publisher and advertiser,
yeah, this is what happens. If you're sending, if you're running a global, say email campaign,
you need to have the understanding if you're sending to different sites, you need to make
sure you segment your email list. So that you're going to the right place and you're dealing
with the right kind of, right kind of intros as it were.

And that's down to big publishers,
big advertisers working together and more of a partnership work. How would you say, there's
a lot in there, a lot to kind of unpack and talk through, but if you think about, you know,
Moonpull is helping in a number of levels, what would you say, how big is the problem, would
you say, like the linking not working, the linking not having the, what's the percent that
that's impacting the industry in your opinion? The problems are…

They're big so far, about
to be huge. I mean, if you think in terms of, for an average program that's got first party
tracking in place, now a proportion of the first party tracking, if it's only first party
tracking, it won't be working because the consumer will be saying no to reject cookies or they'll
want to manage their cookies. Proportion will like it. Now, of course, we see, and we see,
A huge proportion, I can't remember if it's over 80% of the advertisers have retained their
third party tracking, not on networks like say Webgains or Everflow or whatever that don't
have a third party backup. But for so many of them, we see they've still got the third
party tracking in.

Now if it's a program that's been running 10 years, it probably only ever
had third party tracking in. Now when they put their first party in, they just forgot to
take the third party stuff out. So you've got first party and third party. Now, if the first
party is firing, great. If the third party is firing as well, that will probably be firing
even if somebody rejects cookies. So that's fine. But what happens next year when Google
finally joins Firefox and Apple and the rest of them to say, okay, third party is gone. Everyone
who has still had third party tracking running up until then, they're gonna find a cliff edge
of their tracking. may well have dropped off because in the past, over that year, they'll
not have noticed if the first party tracking has become compromised either by something daft
like setting up an entirely new category within the website product and that category not having
been set up correctly or not even having had the JavaScript put in a header for the category
and all the product pages where it might be that the CMP has been introduced which has interfered
with it and we see that so often.

So leading up to the end of the cookie, leading up to the
cookie deprecation by Google next year, what's the percent roughly that you feel like tracking
is essentially not working? It's… Doesn't have to be exact, I'm curious. Yeah, it's so
tough to actually kind of think in terms of those numbers. But if, say currently, if you
are running third party, we heard the bizarre story recently of… a company, major financial
company in the UK, which has set up a brand new affiliate program, third party tracking
only. Why on earth would you do that? Third party only means 25% to 30% of all the links
sent to them are not gonna track in the first place because anything over Apple, site iOS,
iPads, Apple Safari, they won't track at all. ITP stopped it. Anyone using Firefox, it won't
track. It'll track through Google at the moment. Google from early next year is trialing in certain
territories, deprecating third party just to see the impact upon probably on their own earnings.
Because you know the way Google runs, so the rest of this is down to the cash.

So people
will start noticing stuff early next year. Now, if you think in terms of an average advertiser,
who's moving from third to first party. So an average one. It's probably got a tech team
of say 10, 20, 30 techies, fine. If you're the size of a global organization with say 30
programs across 15 countries or something, it might be that your actual sprint time is
three to six months, we're actually getting something done site-wide. So actually getting
into that time. So if you think back three to six months from quarter four of next year,
for instance, that needs to be started off. by very late this February. With all the stuff
happening over Q4, Black Friday, all the rest of it, nobody's gonna be looking at anything
before then, so they won't get scoped until March, maybe June, by which time it's too late.
Their program is gonna tank come October, November in time for Christmas 2024.

So it's gonna be
some very interesting time to see who's prepared, who's come to the party where they're at, or
who's not. Now, how much do you think that utilizing something like API or server to server
can support that transition or not and where are the gaps there? Oh yeah, server to server
tracking is fine, but as most major advertisers will tell you, actually getting server to server
installed is a phenomenal, very difficult.

A technical project, which is why so many of
these big advertisers resisted it. Oh yeah, we can do first party hooky. Yeah, or we can
do JavaScript in the headers and stuff like that. But it just needs to be managed properly.
And so often we see it's not. Affiliate tends to get relatively short shrift compared to other
marketing channels. So for instance, the SEO, PPC guys. If the PPC team say… we need this
happening for this event. It happens really fast because every click and for some of these
B2B programs, every click can be $20 plus. So they need to make sure that the site actually
responds and is able to track what's happened on those PPC clicks pretty much immediately.
Affiliate, it's gonna be three weeks before your cashback affiliates actually notice that
the cashback isn't happening.

And so… you've got a bit of leeway time. So affiliate tends
to get pushed a little bit down. So when you've got a stack of paper on the CTO's desk, yeah,
it can go down there and it just keeps going further and further down. As affiliate now reflects
about 18% or so of an average advertisers revenue or earning opportunity, they will notice the
difference if they start to compromise affiliate far too much. change their websites between 2 and 5% every
month.

2 and 5% advertisers change their month, their advertisers, their programs and their
platforms every month. Which means that over a period of a year, more than 100% of advertisers
websites are changing. And each one of those changes can impact the tracking capabilities
and tracking ability of the network. The network won't know anything about it because it's not
within their wheelhouse. it's all being dealt with, advertiser side. They've delivered them,
the affiliate handover is delivered to the advertiser. And if they screw stuff up on their
site, nobody will know until the Canary in the coal mine and the cashback website actually
starts squeaking and says, hang on, there's no cash back coming here.

Every other affiliate
will just see it start to drift down and the conversion rates will droop. And you might find,
okay, that conversion has gone down there. Let's change my program to that. So then instead
of… Promoting computer company A, I won't say any names, computer company B instead. So
they start moving. So the program starts to kind of slow down and affiliate is then discounted.
So not very good this affiliate stuff, is it? Why don't we kind of just turn it off and we
just carry on doing what we're doing? And then they realized, but because it's just not being
tracked, that all of the sales they're getting, once they close the program, the sales just
go to the floor. Oh, holy shit. The trouble is transparency. If there's no transparency
of what's happening and the beauty of Moonpool is it actually sheds a light on all of that
stuff, is that actually set up to succeed? And if it's set up to succeed, you can guarantee
that once it's set up to succeed and the cookie is actually fired correctly, by the time it
hits the thank you page after the purchase, that stuff never gets screwed up with because
that kind of piece of code is never change.

You don't change your thank you page. You don't
change your check out page because that just breaks a whole load of stuff. Sorry, I've got
a slash. I love it. And I love the ongoing theme of transparency,
Chris. It seems like that just continues to come up through this whole conversation, continues
to come up in your career, in your experience, building pub discovery and your experience with
Moonpole. And I think. My sense in working with you and talking to you and our work with
the PMA together has been that that's kind of where our hope is for this industry to continue
to build and improve on that transparency.

So tip of the cap to you there. Yeah, and just
one of the things we're working with the Measurements Council is looking at toolbars and all those
kinds of things which are incredibly non-transparent. Huge companies with massive amounts of cash
are behind the toolbars. So it's a bit like US government lobbying. People with the most
cash get the most shouts, which means that they get the most attention. And it's exactly
what's happening with the toolbar lobby. They're lobbying the advertisers saying, Oh yeah, yes,
it's all incremental. And is it help? Particularly when you see the cookie dropped or the cookie
activated 15 seconds before somebody hits buy. It's not difficult to police, it's not difficult
to deal with. It's just there's a lack of will to deal with it correctly. Yeah, and I love
the shining of the light. I think that that's the theme of a lot of, I think, the work that
you are doing with the Performance Marketing Association, the collaboration that we have
in talking about the Measurements Council. And I think the aim is to kind of elevate and
shine light and say, here's the actual data, here's the information.

You can make an informed…
more informed decision because of that. It's funny in my old previous days getting into programmatic,
I remember transparency was like the buzzword du jour and it comes in waves in different areas,
right? And I think that it's kind of funny that 20 years later we're actually still asking
for more transparency. We're actually still advocating for more transparency in the industry.
And so ideally that only benefits the consumer, only benefits the buyer, the advertiser, and
certainly the partner in a lot of cases. Yeah, and that kind of transparency, it helps to drive
far more informed decisions of where you allocate time, effort, budget, whatever it might be,
to make sure that the overall goal and the drive of your company and your marketing is
in the right place. This means that you've got the right stuff for your consumers.

If they're
cash back consumers, they know they're going to get a cash back and it's going to work. So
they become perhaps more loyal customers through the cash back relationship. That stuff kind
of happens. Oh, don't get me started on the budget thing, sorry. One of my soapboxes is
budgets for affiliate programs. Now, if you're running an affiliate program on a CPA basis,
You only pay when somebody buys stuff, which means that if that happens, why the hell would
you put a budget on it? You're gonna close your door of your high street, is Macy's gonna
close the door at week three of the month? Oh, we hit budget. We're gonna go home for three
for a week. They don't do it. Why would you do it online? Madness, absolute madness. And
you get people pausing their affiliate program. What? If there's a pause because it's costing
you money, then you're doing it wrong.

Because on the CPA basis, it's the only way
it works. It should be a revenue generator rather than a cost center, essentially, if it's
being managed properly. And if it's managed by the marketing, then it's managed by the sales
team, it will be worked like that. But too often it comes under marketing as a cost. Well,
the question also is an interesting one. paid search, if paid search was hitting your ROAS
or MER goals, if you were getting lifetime value, if you're getting quality, if you're
hitting your goals on paid search, would you pause paid search? Well it's a bit like Mr.
McAubor or something from Charles Dickens or whatever. If you're spending 19 shillings and
making a pound back, sorry she's old school, if you say 90 cents and getting a dollar back,
then great. If you're spending a dollar getting 90 cents back, then stop it. So if it's making
a profit, why would you not do it? Yeah, exactly. And you bring up an interesting, with the pound
shilling example, UK, US, what's the key difference you've observed in your career in terms of maybe
the performance marketing space? I would say the biggest shock to me.

2000 something, eight, nine, whatever it was,
is how massive the lead gen side of affiliate is in the States. Now, there's a, I think there's
a real issue amongst CMOs of understanding of what affiliate is. They see lead generation
and think that is affiliate, which is why when you're dealing with lead gen, you pause your
lead gen campaigns. The trouble is so many CMOs, that's the breadth of their understanding.
and they think they can pause a relationship campaign.

You ask your wife if you can do that,
it doesn't work. So yeah, if you're dealing with partnerships or performance marketing with
a partner, with a publisher that's got stuff happening all the time. So you don't tell Wall
Street Journal, oh, we're pausing the affiliate stuff. So you're not going to earn something
for week three of this month. That's not pretty good for that relationship. So why would anybody
ever cause a CPA affiliate program? It's just a nonsense. So you should never have that split
personality. You should always deal with, okay, they both use the affiliate model, as Jane O'Loughlin
used to call them. It's not affiliate channel. The affiliate model is applied to multiple channels.
The trouble is most CMOs only ever see it as a channel and it should be a model. Deal with
the lead gen channel, fine. deal with it differently to your partnership and performance channel,
which is about based on relationships, they're not the same thing. Yeah. Chris, if you are
not working in digital, you're not talking affiliate, tracking transparency, what are you
doing for fun outside of work? I bake, if anyone's seen me on Instagram, they'll probably realize
I bake a bit.

I enjoy making bread on whatever. And I see- I love it. My passion is- Wow. singing
this past weekend, I and the choir, we sang the services for Chester Cathedral here in the
UK, which is fab. You can actually look for Chester Cathedral for the 6th of August and
you'll hear our choir singing the services there. So we sang an amazing Holst and Dunk
de Mittis and Victoria Magnificat. So yeah. If you're really into British music. of choral
music, then that's my weakness. That's really cool. We'll have to, the audience will have
to look that up. Maybe we'll have to get a little sample from you at some point.

Yeah,
cool. Chris, I really appreciate having you. It's been a pleasure. I feel like we could go
on for so much longer. I definitely got, I think everyone got a sense of how much you've
contributed to the affiliate industry marketing industry and also just aiming for a higher standard
of transparency and value so really appreciate you. Hey it's been a pleasure thanks very much
for inviting me it's been yeah as you say well you know I can talk all day but yeah I'm sure
we could have chatted on longer. Thanks Chris have a great one. Thank you..

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