Does interactive marketing need yet another industry association? At first glance you might not think so. Online advertisers are all but drowning in an alphabet soup tureen of trade organizations, email and search are well accounted for, thank you very much. But what of affiliates and other performance-based online marketers? They now have a trade org to call their own, and to represent their interests, together with the concerns of others in the performance marketing ecosystem.
The newly formed Performance Marketing Alliance is largely the brainchild of Brad Waller, with whom we caught up to learn more about the nascent -- but fast-growing -- organizations. Its mission is threefold: to represent the performance based marketing industry in a unified voice, cultivate a positive image, and encourage participation in the channel.
Q: Let's begin with the obvious. Why another trade group, and why now?
A: The group we represent simply is not represented by any of the others. There are pieces of us that are. One of our members spoke with [IAB leader] Randall Rothenberg and asked, "Is there as issue?" He replied no, the IAB is not interested in covering our area of business. In Europe there may be some associations that are very close to what we do. But frankly, a very low level affiliate simply has no one who represents them.
Q: When and how did the new group come together?
A: It goes back to early 2006, for me at least. That was about the timeframe when there were some [legal] issues in the affiliate space, which made the industry look bad to people who didn't know about it, including the press. At the time, California wrote a spam law. I made an appointment with Deborah Bowen, my state representative, to air my views. During our meeting she said, "If I'd know we had a resource like you, I would have called you up to Sacramento when we had the hearings."
I started talking with people at the Affiliate Summit conference in 2006, as well as to people like Jim Sterne and Andy Sernovitz. I got a lot of information from them on how to start up trade associations. I quickly realized this literally needed to be a full time job. Several large companies said early on that yes, they'd be interested in joining, but I was never able to coalesce the group. In March of last year it really got rolling. Rebecca Madigan was hired and given the latitude to really work this trade association. We now have someone who can spend her working day herding cats.
Q: Surely she's not doing this alone. How is the organization structured?
A: I'm one of three officers, also treasurer and a member of the Formation Advisory Board which is comprised of 11 member representatives from various parts of the industry. With an organization like SEMPO it's easy; they're all search marketers. We've got affiliates who work with merchants, and merchants who work with networks -- the economic system is varied. The board is from all relevant areas. We've also formed a number of subcommittees.
A: What are the current top priorities on your agenda?
We've got a charter membership drive underway to attract people who are a bit more passionate about the industry and who are willing to put in time and money to build the organization.
In terms of priorities, the most important thing is advocacy. We want to let people know this is a good business, a viable business. That includes bringing in affiliates and more merchants. There's also an outreach to the media. We want to present who we are and what we do in a better light. At a conference last year, affiliates were called "thieves," and there was no one present to represent the industry. Educational outreach. Longer term, we'd like to make it so we can start attracting more merchants. This country's got hundreds of thousands of businesses with Web sites that sell something. And finally, we're looking at having a trade show presence.
We want to play a role as legislation is raised that impacts our business, for example New York's "Amazon law." We're too late to do anything about that one, but we do need to get involved in grassroots organization elsewhere.