Disclosure: If I'm not making money through affiliate links on the post you're currently reading, it's an oversight on my part and will be corrected soon.

Call Me Anything, Just Don’t Call Me Late for Dinner

by Missy Ward in Affiliate Marketing   6 Comments

A Rose by Any Other NameThere’s been a lot of talk of late regarding a change in the affiliate marketing nomenclature; inclusive of the industry name itself.

Some argue that as our industry evolves, that the designation should take on a broader descriptive, e.g., “performance marketing industry”, in which affiliate marketing plays a vital role as a significant channel; yet one of many.

As an industry, we do tend to over-complicate the issue by using disparate terminology for essentially the same things, leading to even greater confusion, especially to folks outside of our community.

For the last decade, I’ve called myself an “affiliate”, while others have preferred to be called “publisher” or “associate”. Lately, I’ve also seen the term “media partner” being used to essentially describe the same relationship that I’ve had with my “merchants” (or “advertisers”, depending on what THEY choose to call themselves).

Some make a case that “affiliate marketing” carries a lot of yucky baggage with it and by renaming it “performance marketing”, that our industry will garner more media attention, become shielded from advertising tax laws and that it will somehow change the perception that some people have about our industry overall.

Others maintain that after spending years educating online marketers and the public about affiliate marketing that changing the name now, would set us back in a time where our industry continues to emerge and is now being recognized as a legitimate, viable marketing channel.

As I look at the Affiliate Summit East 2010 agenda included in this issue of FeedFront and the incorporated articles written by the experienced marketers that specialize in various subsets of internet marketing, I would wager that many do not call themselves affiliate marketers or performance marketers. Rather, they likely have labeled themselves as social media marketers, SEO’s, bloggers, e-mailers, direct marketers, etc., even though they all are involved in affiliate marketing at some level and are actively trying to increase their foothold in our growing sector of online marketing.

So, while I’m all for a term to better reflect our industry’s forward-thinking, innovative, multi-channel approach to generating sales and leads, I don’t know if I’m ready to change it to performance marketing, just because it somehow seems more mainstream.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”- William Shakespeare

Email me your thoughts at missyward@affiliatesummit.com to be published in FeedFront Magazine’s new Letters to the Editor section.

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Missy Ward

Co-Founder & President at Affiliate Summit, Inc.
Missy Ward has been in affiliate marketing since 1999. She is the Co-Founder of Affiliate Summit, FeedFront Magazine, GeekCast.fm, itsaWAHMthing.com; the Co-Publisher of Revenews.com, Founder of AffiliateMarketersGiveBack.com and manages many of her own affiliate sites. If she's not making money through affiliate links on the post you're currently reading, it's an oversight on her part and it will be corrected soon.

Comment & Add Your Voice

1 Todd Crawford July 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for taking the time to post this Missy. It is an interesting discussion and one I have been trying to encourage recently. You touched on all the many facets I have brought up in the past few months.

One additional point I want to bring up is the confusion between CPA networks and more traditional affiliate networks. Many people are lumping these together under the affiliate marketing umbrella. I believe the business model for CPA networks is very different than that of affiliate networks. Another striking difference is in the number of companies representing these two models. There are essentially a handful of affiliate networks and literally dozens (if not hundreds) of CPA networks. To put this in perspective, five years ago there were probably as many CPA networks as there were affiliate networks.

This recent growth on the CPA side has caused a lot of confusion for advertisers (in particular retailers that typically offer a percentage of sale payouts and use traditional affiliate networks) as to which companies they should work with and what are the differences between them. In addition, the rapid proliferation of CPA networks has not been without significant issues that have cast a dark shadow on the industry and further added to the confusion and perception that affiliate marketing is “bad” or not as valuable/proven of a marketing channel.

This (in addition to all the things you mentioned) is why I feel it might be best to rebrand the industry to better align it with other marketing efforts/channels. Advertising or marketing is the starting point. I prefer advertising. So now we need to look at the types of advertising. I bucket them into branding and direct response. Branding is typically bought on a CPM or placement fee. Direct response is typically bought on a CPC or CPA basis. In the end, you can mix and match how you buy your advertising but the difference is in what you expect from your advertising spend – more brand awareness or more direct response?

To help our elected officials better understand how the internets work (related to the nexus tax laws being introduced), we need to position affiliate marketing as advertising that is bought on a performance basis. In my opinion, it is not a commission, it is an advertiser payout to their partner for the performance of media placement (hence the term “media partner” instead of publisher or affiliate). Also, if you extend advertising on a performance basis to the offline world (disclosure: my company enables this), the word affiliate has a completely different meaning for television and radio channels – so using media partner seems to work better as a general term for all media distribution channels (web, social media, email, tv, radio, mobile, print).

So, long story (post) short, I feel the terms “performance advertising, advertiser and media partner” are better terms for the currently used “affiliate marketing, merchant, affiliate/publisher” if the intention is to move the industry in a direction that aligns it more closely with other advertising like display, search, email, tv, radio, direct mail, print, etc.

These are my thoughts – I am looking forward to hearing others respond. If anyone want to discuss this in person, I hope to talk to you in NYC at ASE in August!


2 Geno Prussakov July 9, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Excellent post, Missy, and I’m with you on the logic there. Affiliate marketing is not a type of marketing (like SM marketing, paid search marketing, email marketing, etc) but rather a name for the type of business relationship/partnership between a marketer and an online (or now even offline) business being marketed.

I am not sure “if I’m ready to change it to performance marketing, just because it somehow seems more mainstream” either. The question of whether it will help us clarify something to the legislators is a different story… But will it really?


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