ASOS CEO Nick Robertson has managed to offend the entire affiliate marketing community by describing some of them as “grubby little people in grubby studios“.

Mr Robertson told NMA last week that the company is planning to resurrect its affiliate activity as part of an increased online marketing focus after a period of brand-building in the offline arena.

His blunt choice of words has offended the world of affiliates with the result that it will now take a brave network or affiliate publisher to take the etailer’s shilling in the future.

The ASOS co-founder said:  ”I’m not saying we couldn’t do more in the online marketing space. Next year we’ll reintroduce affiliate marketing, but as it should be. No silly commissions being paid to grubby little people in grubby studios growing income at our expense, getting in the way of genuine sales.”

Among those affiliates who have taken offence is US-based affiliate Shawn Collins, an influential blogger and founder of Affiliate Summit. 

His thoughts on the ASOS slur – in the form of a song – have been uploaded on to YouTube and make for entertaining viewing.

Expressed in more prosaic form, Mr Collins says on his blog: “I can’t really imagine what the motive is behind that statement, but if he really anticipates relaunching the affiliate program with that perspective, I think he’s in for a rude awakening.

I don’t think affiliates are going to be willing to promote ASOS, and in all likelihood there will be some sort of boycott against the brand and affiliate program by affiliate marketers.”

Clarke Duncan’s post on this is also amusing reading although it will be more sobering for the person or agency tasked with kickstarting ASOS’s affiliate marketing activity.

ASOS, which is still thriving despite being forced to shut down temporarily after the Buncefield oil depot fire at the end of 2005, will survive to fight another day.

But there is a lesson here for online retailers that it is wise for them to work in partnership with affiliates rather than attempting to alienate them.

According to E-consultancy figures in our Affiliate Marketing Networks Buyer’s Guide, affiliates helped to generate more than £2 billion in UK online sales during 2006.

For more information about who affiliates really are, read our UK Affiliate Census Report published at the start of this year in association with Affiliate Program Advice.

Anyone interested in affiliate marketing should also read our recent Roundtable briefing.