Director, Product, VigLink
Viglink’s survey, released earlier this year, found that affiliate marketing was ahead of display advertising in revenue generation. We spoke to Brian Lovett, Director of Product, VigLink, to find out how affiliate marketing works and how this sector would evolve in the years to come.
MTS: Tell us about your role at VigLink and how you arrived at this position?
Brian Lovett: I am the Director of Product at VigLink. Before my current role, I was the CEO of a company in the same digital space. When that company merged with VigLink a year and a half ago, Product was a natural fit for me, as I was heavily involved in the design and planning of new products at my former company.
MTS: How does VigLink’s real-time bidding system work?
Brian: Real-time bidding creates a competitive marketplace for our publishers’ ad inventory. We work with multiple partners on the demand side that are able to bid for clicks based on a variety of criteria. Then, we insert the resulting links into publishers’ pages to maximize the value of the content they produce.
MTS: How should marketers plan the adoption of affiliate marketing across their campaigns?
Brian: In almost any scenario in which you are promoting a product or service, affiliate marketing is a natural addition to your overall marketing plan. Being performance-based, affiliate marketing offers an easily-calculated return on ad spend before running test campaigns. The barrier to entry is low, as are the risks.
MTS: How do you see affiliate technology progressing in mainstream media as ad blockers continue to proliferate?
Brian: Affiliate technology is the perfect channel for monetizing in a climate filled with ad blockers. Ad blockers are smart, but affiliate technology is smarter. It’s not that affiliate technology outsmarts ad blockers; rather, affiliate technology adds value to existing content, is less intrusive than traditional display advertising, and fits natively into the look and feel of a site. Many ad blocking tools justifiably consider affiliate links to be non-intrusive and, therefore, don’t block them at all. To that end, affiliate technology will continue to grow and will be a leader for more progression in non-intrusive, integrated marketing.
MTS: How is VigLink’s bidding system different from traditional affiliate link technology?
Brian: VigLink offers real-time bidding, while traditional affiliate links are static. Static affiliate systems mean a published pages with a link to a retailer will always have a link to that retailer. By comparison, VigLink is able to look at that link as a placeholder and, based on several signals, determine the destination that will result in the most value for the page visitor, the website owner, and the advertiser.
MTS: Why should marketers incorporate affiliate technology into their marketing suite and budget?
Brian: Affiliate marketing is low risk with high rewards. As affiliate links are inserted into complementing content, each link drives significant targeted traffic to products from people that have purchase intent. As our partners typically only pay for conversions, the risks are low. It’s a smart and cost-effective system for marketers, as well as their customers.
MTS: How does affiliate technology compare to traditional programmatic ad placements and what can marketers do to ensure they maximize their ad spend?
Brian: Real-time bidding and other programmatic technologies are just beginning to emerge in the affiliate space. Traditionally, affiliate marketing has been more focused on the static links to retail products I mentioned earlier. So, changes to that traditional system, like VigLink’s real-time bidding features, open new opportunities for publishers and marketers alike. As a marketer entering this space, do your homework and figure out how much you can afford to spend without hurting your margins. Being performance based, affiliate marketing’s risk is low, and there is more control over the return. Next, partner up with an affiliate network that has broad reach in your specific vertical. You want to get your products in front of people that have a high probability of converting into customers. Large networks like VigLink’s have reach across more than 2 million publisher websites across dozens of verticals.
MTS: Ad fraud and brand safety are major points of discussion for traditional programmatic – what does VigLink do to combat ad fraud and ensure publishers and merchants have full transparency?
Brian: By design, affiliate marketing fights back against the fraud typically seen in more traditional pay-per-click advertising models. While it is estimated that as much as a third of traffic is fraudulent in traditional display, affiliate marketing is only of cost to an advertiser when a visitor to a page actually completes an action. The most common action is the actual purchase of a product. As a result, advertisers know up front that their return on ad spend will be high. Beyond that, the publishers in our network are all manually reviewed and required to meet high editorial standards. Finally, we provide transparency reports to advertisers so they know the origin of the traffic sent to their sites.
MTS: How do you the affiliate marketing industry evolving in the years to come?
Brian: As the affiliate industry matures, we have seen an increasing demand from brands that were, until recently, entrenched in the more traditional advertising models. Readers are increasingly more tech savvy and ad blind, which means providing actual value to readers is more important than ever. Affiliate marketing fills that need. I think as time goes on, we will see more sophisticated tools entering the space. This evolution of online content value, driven by affiliate marketing, will add revenue opportunities previously inaccessible to publishers and marketers. It’s an exciting time and VigLink is proud to be a part of it.
MTS: Thanks for chatting with us, Brian.
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