I’m often asked by people “Why don’t you make a network?” and “Why don’t you be an affiliate and promote your own clients more?” and certainly we have considered it, but it always comes down to a key issue : conflict of interest. And I’m sure we could boost our revenue rather nicely if we started playing all side of the business, but at the same time we very well may destroy our trust amongst our affiliate partners.
Firms such as Pepper Jam have progressed through the business from merchant, to affiliate, to affiliate managers to Network. The mixed reviews and acceptance they get, shows that it is not an easy path to travel, and a very difficult one to do while keeping everyone happy.
One of the most debated roles in the industry is that of “Affiliate Network”, the”Trusted Third Party” that is meant to remain neutral and ensure that everyone is working in a fair field of play. It’s not an easy task as everyone has a different opinion on what is a fair field of play.
My personal opinion is that a fair field of play consists of these qualities
- affiliates add value to the consumers purchase cycle
- affiliates drive new customers to a merchants site
- affiliates don’t intercept consumers already in the act of going to a merchant’s site
- affiliates don’t cannibalize other marketing channels
- affiliates don’t cannibalize each others traffic
- requires a direct consumer interaction with the affiliate marketing being run
- no adware, bhos or malware
- that all parties work within their defined roll be that Network / Affiliate / AM or Merchant
So when a “Trusted Third Party” Network such as LinkShare not only allows an affiliate to actually ignore most of these qualities but actually owns it too, then you have to wonder where the “Trusted Third Party” bit has gone. Affiliates can argue back and forward on whether BHOs (Browser Help Objects) should be part of the affiliate channel and how they should interact with the consumer, but the real argument has to be, why isLinkShare now operating as an Affiliate? It is, without a doubt, wrong at all levels.
Certainly they aren’t the first, but as they like to state, they are a market leader, so why is a market leader going out of its’ way to cannibalize it’s affiliate base? Already multiple tests have shown that not only is theLinkShare owned BHO failing to follow LinkShare’s own Terms and Conditions but it is also going beyond BHOs the likes of Ebates and overwriting tracking that is meant to be protected by the afsrc=1 code.
A couple of example videos below on how this LinkShare owned affiliateBHO is cannibalizing Walmart traffic, please allow the videos time to load.
If this is the way Networks are going then I think we can throw the “Trusted Third Party” label our of the window, perhaps go with “Affiliate and Merchant Cannibalization Network” instead?
As a merchant ask yourself? Do you want this kind of “marketing” to be cannibalizing your sales channels, and as an affiliate, do you want to be promoting merchants that allow your traffic to be cannibalized for someoneelse’s profit?