October 25, 2018

Key Learnings From PI Live 2018


I was pleased to attend the PI Live event last week in beautiful London. The location, right near the Tower of London, was fabulous and the rarely-sighted sun actually came out several times during my visit.

London was a perfect location for a performance marketing show considering in 2017, UK affiliate marketing spend passed half a billion pounds. The UK and EU are together a mature affiliate market, but also the gateway to many emerging markets, which when taken as a whole present a vast but complex opportunity. Considering the languages, currencies, logistics, and cultural differences around UK, EU, EMEA, and other micro-economies, having a show like PI Live is a great way to unravel the complexities of doing business in these regions.

For those of you reading this who have been lucky to spend years, if not decades in this business, we can agree that it’s gone through several lifetimes in short order, from a simple paid referral model, to a crisis of fraudsters, to an industry now finding its soul and its future in data, technology, compliance tools and influencers. PI Live was a show about the future, and it’s looking very bright and cutting edge.

I have to hand it to the organizers, the show was intimate yet addressed 3/4 of the world with the wide array of attendees. Here are some points of interest I took from the show:

Campaigns are taking center stage

The awards portion of affiliate shows used to be about "Best Affiliate Network" or "Best Affiliate Agency," but what stepped front and center in this show wasn’t so much the Best Companies, but the Best Work - things like the great creative campaigns, the amazing data-driven engagements, and the pure chemistry of partnerships between technology, networks, agencies and brands.

Technology is now king (as it always should have been)

Whereas technology was historically a hidden background mechanism to refer sales in our industry, it has taken its rightful place front and center, and the exhaust of all these transactions is pure gold. Valuable metrics allow brands to refine messaging and find more new customers, reward publishers at any point in the funnel, and customize and understand every part of the transaction flow.

One size fits all is dead

One walk around the exhibitor floor at PI Live will tell you that the days of opening an affiliate program, loading in a commission rate, adding money to your escrow account, and praying are over. The number of solution providers actually solving problems is astounding. Every pain point brands have ever felt in affiliate from fraud to compliance to targeting specific users to customizing links to dynamic commissioning now have one or multiple solutions.

Digital Disruptors

I also have to give a shout-out to the organizers of PI Live for hosting a meaningful and important event, a competition for young entrepreneurs. The level of talent was outstanding and the winner, with a safety-related app, was a well-deserved winner.

On a personal note, I originally cut my teeth in affiliate on the advertiser side, as the head of content and blog publishers for the Amazon Associates Program several years ago. I was then on the publisher side as VP of Advertisers for a large sub-affiliate network. I am now pleased to be on the agency side of affiliate, and this full-circle background has given me a broad perspective.  

For an affiliate nerd like me with a vested interest in the health of the agency/OPM side of this business, this show and the others I have attended this year give me comfort. I see a ton of new entrants to affiliate on every side of the industry, but most notably on the advertiser side. And with new advertisers, as well as existing advertisers seeking to claim more geography or get better results, there comes a need for expert guides. Agencies are those guides. It's much simpler to pull one lever that gains you access to new markets, viable financial models, optimized and engaged partners, and all the little details like language support and boots on the ground globally, rather than staffing up to support the endeavor. Agencies aren't just an extra set of hands, they are a skilled, tactical team that can parachute into an organization and add value from the get-go.

If you would like an objective audit of your endeavors or have questions about the show in general,

reach out to Craig.McGlynn@partnercentric.com