November 7, 2016

PMI 2016: Our round-up of this year's event

Over the 25th & 26th October, myself and a number of the Navigate team were privileged to attend the Performance Insights event in London, one of the highlights of the Affiliate and Performance marketing calendar.

Held in the Westminster Bridge Park Plaza it proved to be an innovative, informative and above all insightful voyage into where this specialist industry is heading, with all of the inherent advantages and pitfalls along the way.One of the key aspects that came out of this year was a big move into areas beyond driving the traditional measures of performance marketing, such as driving clicks, revenues and sales, into the widening question of ‘what is digital advertising’. Over half of the talks that I attended were around the future of ‘content’ (more on that later) curation and its value to the end consumer and overall user journey, although perhaps that could have been from simply personal choice of what I was drawn to on the day.Content resonanceOne particular discussion that stood out was the panel chat on day one ‘How to measure the success of your content strategy’, with particular praise for the reps from Factory Media and Future Publishing. Aspects that really stood out were that creating ‘good’ content really isn’t enough, it needs to be content that resonates with a targeted crowd of customers you are identifying. John Lewis was the shining example here. It was also agreed that we should all take a step back and realise that no one actually likes advertising as a whole, so we should stop trying to kid ourselves that digital is any different. The reality is that customers like particular advertising. If you think about a number of ads that you saw recently, most of them you would ignore at best or think was an abomination at worst. It’s that one ad out of say, every ten ads, that may stand out to you. That’s what we need to remind ourselves of in digital and creating that word ‘resonance’ among the one in ten.Attribution and ad blockingUnsurprising results in the general feeling towards both of these, although there was definitely a feeling of fresh movement in both aspects finally. There was no doubt that there were some frustrated partners out there who made the point that the ‘year of true attribution’ had been mooted for years and would clearly never happen, but from just looking at the roster and agenda of speakers it was clear that this was affiliate marketing broadening its horizons. The only sour notes seemed to be in ‘Consequences & Opportunities of the Affiliate Commercial Model’ where some wise industry heads seemed to perhaps place blame on each other, and in the past, perhaps a bit too much rather than advocating the future.With ad blocking the main surprise was how little it came up. It’s a danger no doubt, but the very nature of affiliate marketing with its blurred lines and almost ‘specialist’ status as a channel (meaning still somewhat niche) has meant that, for now at least, the main drivers of performance are relatively untroubled by ad blocking due to the various forms of best performance practice.Influencer marketing; a chance missed?It was suggested at least a couple of times during the conference that one of the buzzwords of 2016 ‘influencer’ marketing was actually a re-badged meaning of the term ‘affiliate’ marketing. There was certainly a prevailing feeling that we as an industry should have done more to herald this new age and the advantages of the performance model tracking as a result, but again the talks were mostly positive. The feeling in general was that this new (or amended, depending on your stance!) channel could actually herald an age of informed content marketers operating in the micro-influencer space, using performance marketing and tracking to its absolute maximum.The futureEntrepreneurship was certainly a factor and thinking behind the keynote speakers this year, which probably unintentionally brought a feeling of foreboding about the future and how the landscape would be completely automated. There’s something to be said about the affiliate/performance sector as a whole that it’s always managed to retain the feeling that human interaction still gives an edge, but the keynote speakers certainly quashed some of that with a futuristic and mildly apocalyptic vision of an automated future, even with affiliates. As tools and technology continue to improve at such a rapid rate, affiliate marketing is no different and we must embrace it now in its various forms.Alastair Kidner, Senior Account Manager

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