Why Media Publishers Are The Real Influencers In Affiliate Marketing

This week's Opinion Piece is written by Hanan Maayan, Co-Founder and CEO of Trackonomics.

The Affiliate industry’s obsession with influencers, is leaving me increasingly puzzled.

I’ll concede, influencer marketing isn’t lacking in popularity. Advertisers reportedly spent up to $1.6 billion on Instagram alone in 2018.

Apparently, influencer marketing globally will be worth between $5 and $10 billion by 2020.  The majority of this spend is negotiated and booked directly (or via agents) with a handful of big influencers in each sector, with fashion being by far the most popular. Those big influencer sponsorship deals though are rarely dictated by the paradigm of performance marketing. In fact, it’s widely acknowledged that influencer marketing is struggling to tie-up big spend with quantifiable results. In a study by Rakuten 38% of marketers admitted that they couldn’t tell whether a particular influencer campaign had driven sales.

If influencers with major reach and global recognition can’t back out their campaigns to tangible results then are smaller upper-funnel properties really going to do any better? This study from Points North Group, covered by PerformanceIN, found that 78% of engagement was fake across some sponsored social media campaigns. There is also a growing issue of consumer trust in influencer marketing, as almost half of consumers in research by Bazaarvoice said they were fatigued by repetitive influencer posts promoting products and brands, a clear signal that the key element of authenticity is negatively impacted by over-advertising; again a view that is sure to tarnish the veneer of impartiality pervaded by many micro-influencers.

Overall, I find the influencer opportunities still left on the table for affiliate marketing to be incredibly limited. Yet the industry continues to sell the influencer dream, based on blogs with small traffic potential and social influencers without the reach to make a telling sales contribution.

The simple fact is, these affiliates, even en-masse, aren’t really going to move the needle for a large advertiser.

Yet all the while the Affiliate industry seems rather oblivious to the opportunities with large media owners that are perfectly placed to deliver the upper-funnel content at the scale that the industry needs and craves.

In the US, we saw nationally recognised content owners generate tens of millions of Dollars in affiliate commission in 2018, and a sectorial YoY growth of sometimes up to 5x(!), all generated by uniquely curated content built around monetised affiliate links.

This still represents a fraction of the potential major media owners can offer the affiliate industry in the UK. With these companies actively looking to aggressively diversify advertising revenues in the wake of competition, ad-blocking and increased browser privacy, the tangible value of transactional-CPA advertising driven from uniquely generated, upper-funnel content feels like the perfect partnership.

I’d love to see a more concerted focus, by the industry as a collective, to bring these media owners into the space. These media outets are the real influencers that can actually make a difference to affiliate marketing in 2019.