DM CONFIDENTIAL — When talking about the fake blog landscape we almost always focus on those driving the traffic, the publisher/affiliate.
It’s the most visible and controversial piece of the equation, but without an actual product to promote, there would be no flogger. In the case of the fake blogs causing the ever increasing brouhaha today, it’s the company that produces the acai / resveratrol, work from home programs, government grants, teeth whitening, etc. How complicit the end advertiser is in how their product gets promoted, only they know.
If we look at the recent legal action brought by Oprah and Oz, they do not distinguish between the marketer of the product and the end advertiser, even though clearly there is a difference. With a product doing the type of volume that the pills have done, the argument of plausible deniability gets more difficult for them to make; but it’s not completely unreasonable to think a particular acai maker/distributor has not seen an infringing fake blog and/or is aware that their product is being marketed in such away, especially if that person isn’t from our industry. Many people from our industry when seeing how well these products started doing went into the distribution of product, but they are a different story.
The flog ecosystem has received an increasing amount of attention, but when we look at some of the mechanics behind it, what we are really talking about is a product with wide appeal, a company that can offer that product to a user in the free trial format, and given their business model can afford to pay a hefty cost per acquisition for a new free trial signup. When we focus on that, what we’ve described has nothing to do with fake blogs, as they are only the medium.
That business is the one of continuity, and they have been an indelible part of the performance marketing landscape, playing an ever increasing role in the monetization of traffic. Health and beauty continuity programs in particular have existed long before the advent of the flog and still are promoted flog-free; it just doesn’t seem that way at times. Behind the scenes, though, regardless of the existence of flogs, those at cpa networks for example continue to seek out new candidates that could become viable continuity programs.
Finding a continuity program to promote, though, becomes a tricky balance. A fully mature program, online at least, means a greater likelihood that the company has a strong marketing presence already. One extreme would be working with someone like Netflix – a perfectly great business built on continuity – but not the most exciting for those in the performance marketing space. Another example is a product that I came across years ago – a product that helped dieters know whether they were actually losing weight.
That it would be the perfect value-add for the acai guys is a different story, but basically when dieting, you can’t always tell by weight loss the effectiveness. You can do a simple test of one’s ph to know whether your body is losing weight. The makers of this product had a retail strategy in mind and wanted to sell it online, but they couldn’t come to grips with running a continuity program. Had I known then that companies existed to help turn a product into a continuity (from fulfillment to customer service), it might today be a successful campaign online, but it’s one of many in the could have been pile.
My experience, namely having met a company with a potential product to run online and advising them how they could scale it online, is an outgrowth of my overall interest in the space. Had I not only known about some of the component companies that could have made it a reality but more importantly made my living bringing these products to market, I would have spent a lot more effort making that happen. And, if that one didn’t happen, I would have kept hunting until I found one, as is the case with many people in our space.
Let’s assume, though, that I brought this advertiser to market, having explained to them the continuity landscape, what would have happened? I would have been seeing green knowing the scale that a continuity program with the right metrics could bring, but I’m quite thankful that it didn’t happen then, because I can almost guarantee the results would have been a disaster. There is so much more than meets the eye when it comes to the continuity landscape, and the world of flogs illustrates one such challenge – not knowing how the product could get marketed. As the advertiser, you knew it had potential, but you couldn’t predict, with a true product first point of view, that it would be promoted in a way that you wouldn’t haven given permission to in advance or told about once it started happening.
What we are talking about now from the advertiser’s point, from the perils of trying to cash in on the next big thing, is ultimately fraud. And marketing fraud is but one possible outcome for a new advertiser.