Don’t Panic: Google Closing Its Affiliate Network Opens New Doors for Performance Marketers

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ADOTAS — It began as an announcement on the Google Affiliate Network (GAN) blog and sent ripples through the performance-marketing world. Google said it plans to shut down its affiliate network to “focus on other products that are driving great results for clients.” Prominent industry thought leaders began to weigh in on Google’s strategic move, and competing networks quickly seized the opportunity to step up and grab the attention of advertisers currently using GAN.

This will be talked about more and more as the July 31 closing date nears, but as the initial dust settles, many advertisers (and affiliates waiting for their lead) are asking “Now what?” The end of any relationship can stir up feelings of panic — a need to quickly fill the void — and while it’s true that GAN customers must make some major decisions over the next few months, there’s no need to panic. In fact, new doors are opening for performance marketers, and there are additional options to Google’s other products or another network.

Regardless of what one thinks about Google’s move, J.J. Hirschle, head of Google Affiliate Network, was correct in his assessment of a rapidly changing CPA landscape. In fact, Google’s decision to focus on other CPA products signaled a continued industry trend toward performance marketing, which affiliate is just one part of. The recent IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report for 2012 reinforces this shift, as performance-based marketing continued its steady year-over-year growth to 66 percent of total online ad revenues, with search, display and the rapidly growing mobile space leading the way.

Because GAN was a product that arose from an acquisition but never evolved, it was ultimately unable to meet the shifting needs of brands engaged in the larger performance marketing space. Many advertisers run affiliate campaigns on several networks, and for some, the initial reaction will be to simply move campaigns to another traditional network. While it’s true that other networks can offer brands and publishers things that GAN couldn’t, there are other partnership options that address the new demands of advertisers, publishers and digital agencies in this new digital marketing ecosystem.

The gap left by GAN opens doors for all involved parties to evaluate. Already, many brands have decided to bring their performance-marketing management in house. Enterprise technology platforms allow brands to manage their own publisher relationships, and publishers to gain direct access to the brands and agencies that drive these new performance-marketing decisions. This option allows enterprises to adapt to the industry shift while growing and optimizing all of their performance channels — many of which used to be managed on disparate platforms.

While GAN closing has an immediate affect on its advertisers and publishers, the industry shift also has implications for the agencies that manage large brand campaigns. Many digital advertising agencies have identified the potential value in partnering with technology providers that enable in house performance marketing for brands. Solutions that allow real-time centralized data tracking on custom dashboards allow agencies to provide better value and service to their clients on the campaign management side, as performance channels continue to increase and become more profitable.

There are no easy answers here. No doubt that either adopting a new technology platform or migrating to another network will take time and resources for all of GAN’s current customers. But again, this is not a time to panic; on the contrary, Google’s announcement is actually a call to brands engaged in performance marketing for a calm and considered review of the changing digital marketing landscape and all available options. Brands should ask themselves what solutions best allow them to scale and future proof in an industry that will only continue to grow and evolve.

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