Adam and I exchanged emails for this interview and it has been slightly condensed and edited.
Marc Goldberg: Adam we go back like babies and pacifiers. Tell everyone about our Sprinks connection and then what you have been up to since
AW: That feels like a lifetime ago. But Sprinks was a contextual advertising product for its day, it was a Google Ad sense competitor. My focus was on acquiring and managing distribution partners. Prior to that I had worked on a small site ad network at what was 24/7 Media – but Sprinks really got me familiar with a lot of the larger web properties out there at the time and how they thought about monetization.
After Sprinks – I continued my journey on the publisher side of the business at what was formerly known as LinkShare, now Rakuten Advertising, one of the largest affiliate marketing networks in the world. Little did I realize at the time, but affiliate marketing really grasped my interest and from helping build out the publisher management function at LinkShare into other senior roles, I eventually took on the GM/SVP of the entire North American affiliate business for over 4 years. It truly was a great experience.
From all my time in the affiliate space, I realized there was a gap in the performance marketing industry where there are so many publishers looking for strategic help navigating the space, leveraging affiliate for monetization, and developing a partnership framework that I started my own consulting practice to support it, Weiss Digital Consulting (real clever name, right?). Anyway, 2 ½ years later and a bunch of different clients – it really snowballed and I need to pinch myself from time to time because it’s truly been an amazing experience starting up my own thing.
MG: “Marcia Marcia Marcia” seems like what performance advertisers think about Brand Marketing receiving all of the attention. It has always been treated like a red headed step child. How do you see the two working together?
AW: I think at one time that might’ve been the case, but in my experience not as much today. What I’ve found is that as businesses mature on both sides of the equation (advertiser & publisher) the two work much more strategically together when it comes to performance budgets. And as an advertiser your performance budget is clearly measurable.. With the introduction of new attribution tools and logic around commissioning, it’s made it that much easier for the two to work together when it’s managed the right way.
With different commissioning strategies it does allow for an alignment beyond just performance but to brand, as you mentioned. We’re starting to see first click attribution work it’s way into the commissioning mix as well as what we call “flat fee” placements which along with CPAs help align the more content focused publishers and the advertisers looking to feature their brand or products to create more intent. And it’s’ not only limited to content – even more traditional publishers in the space can create more upper funnel activity.
Everyone should note there has really been a maturity in the space, especially when you look at the sophistication of the publishers, the acquisitions we’ve seen over the years and the valuations tied to them, and even look at the marketing dollars being put towards it – some large affiliate publishers sponsor NBA teams, there are ads for affiliate sites all over podcasts, and more are running national TV ads!!! These are real marketing vehicles that advertisers can harness to grow their business.
MG: So performance marketer goals are directly tied to performance but are they also tied to the Brand? The content adjacencies seem to be less restrictive .
AW: In the past few years the affiliate/performance channel has seen more content and editorial focused sites in the channel as well as an influx of influencers who are using affiliate as a monetization channel. But in my mind, the beauty of affiliate is the control and the 1:1 nature of these partnerships. You pick your partners, you work with them to determine placements on site, and you should have the information you need going into a partnership to make a decision if this is a partner you want to work with.
MG : What are some misconceptions of affiliate marketing?
The common one is that it’s all coupons & deals. This is a big part of the channel, but as I mentioned before, there is influencer & content based distribution (and more) that supports a more diverse portfolio of partners in an affiliate program. And as the channel, the technology, and the partners mature – there is so much more sophistication that goes into how all publishers, including coupons & deals, provide offers to the end consumer.
I think of affiliate marketing as the Rocky Balboa of the digital marketing world – the constant underdog that always rises to the occasion.
MG: How should people be thinking differently about the channel?
AW:I think the most important thing is as an advertiser, to look at the publishers in your affiliate program as a portfolio of strategic partners. Each one has their own unique value proposition and ability to reach consumers in a different way. It’s easy to just compartmentalize a group of publishers that appear to have a similar business model but if you dig in with each, I’ve found that more often than not, there are key differences in things like how they acquire consumers, the breakdown of those consumers, how they target offers, and how they can help an advertiser achieve their goals. A lot of people have shifted how they talk about the channel as a partnership channel – and it’s true. Each publisher truly is a strategic partner, but you do have to put the work in (on both sides) to make sure you’re aligned and set to hit the right KPIs and goals that benefit both parties, as a true partnership should do.
MG: I know you hate the Mets..wait, scratch that, YOU LOVE THE METS. Is Steve Cohen your new favorite person?
AW: I do love the Mets. I feel like it’s a badge of honor and a sign of loyalty sticking by this team my entire life. I remember going to my first game with my dad back in the early 80’s at Shea Stadium and then fast forward – one of my best moments was in 2015 when they were in the playoffs taking my son to the 1st playoff game ever at Citifield when they played the Dodgers and eventually went to the World Series. It was a great time, and my son, who was 8 or 9 at the time also learned some new words sitting in the upper deck.
MG: If you think a player on the mets is going to win an award, who and what award? Degrom or Noah winning the Cy Young? Pete HR champ, Lindor MVP? Who ya got?
AW: Jacob deGrom is simply amazing. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’d go with him for CyYoung any day. A bolder pick – how about — Jeff McNeil for batting champion?
MG: Assuming Full season, Over Under on Mets wins? World Series?
AW: It’s funny, every year I go to the Affiliate Summit conference in Vegas and, I’m not a gambling man, but no matter the odds, the last thing I do before heading to the airport is place a bet on the Mets to win the World Series at the sports book.
I like having the piece of paper…which has made for great bookmarks and nothing else since I started doing it.