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Steven Brown

Moonpull founder, Steven Brown talks to Lee-Ann Johnstone in the latest Affiliate Insider podcast

Chris Tradgett

Listen to the recent podcast from Affiliate Insider

In this recent podcast, Lee-Ann and Steven Brown cover over 20 years of affiliate industry development, tracking issues and their solutions.

We’ve picked out some of the key points here in time for Affiliate Summit East.

Where has Moonpull come from?

Lee-Ann was keen to understand Steve’s back story and he started by covering setting up Perfiliate and the start of the buy.at affiliate network* with the early team in 2002. Over the next few years buy.at became one of the largest UK affiliate networks and launched into the USA in 2007.

One of the real innovations buy.at brought to the affiliate market was enabling merchant to affiliate conversations. It may seem bizarre to us now, but 20 years ago, the established affiliate networks operated more like an ad network. I personally recall from an early Speakeasy event, the BT affiliate manager being amazed at being able to sit down and talk to a leading telecoms affiliate without a network ‘chaperone’.

Merchants back then couldn’t see which affiliates were driving their sales; as Lee-Ann said affiliate managers were “literally flying blind”. Younger affiliate managers usually find the idea incomprehensible when compared to the current open management of affiliate programs. As Steve said, it was madness not to understand which affiliates were most successful and why.

Other ground-breaking ideas buy.at introduced included:

  • Server side tracking
  • Call centre tracking
  • Affiliate use of a clickID to understand where their conversions came from
  • Charity cashback websites, using the .at redirects

buy.at of course was later acquired by Digital Window* and alumni can be found almost everywhere in the industry.

Benefits of publisher side experience

Following buy.at’s acquisition, it was good to see the buy.at charity cashback websites part of easyfundraising and Steve joined the board to continue the relationship. What that experience did do was give a thorough understanding of the failings in affiliate tracking.

There’s a truism often repeated that “5% of affiliate sales don’t track” Of course it’s not across the board. With some advertisers it may be as low as 1% with others perhaps 35% or more. The feedback loop in a cashback website gives a real clarity of those differences.

Moonpull has been 20 years in the making

So, as Steve explains, the experience of running a network as well as the publisher side experience has led to the latest technology. It’s been clear for long time that affiliate marketing is the sum of a lot of moving parts.

Advertisers are faced with a lot of pressures, from compliance such as PECR and GDPR as well as the commercial pressures of ensuring an ecommerce site delivers sales. They also have competing channels all of which have to work simultaneously.

Tracking affiliate tracking

All of these lead to compromises, which have to be dealt with – and usually fixing the affiliate tracking issues is low down on the list. As Steve says, “keeping tracking working is both an art and a science. An art because you have to design it; a science because you have to rigorously apply it”.

We also now have the issues of deprecation of third party cookies, Apple’s ITP and Google making it’s own changes. Cookie management is becoming central and the implementation of CMPs is adding another layer of complexity.

So, Moonpull has been developed to keep tracking working. Moonpull analysis helps publishers to understand all the subtleties of different tracking, the effect of deeplinks, CMPs being used and of course where the affiliate tracking link fails.

So it is now a good time to enter into a mature conversation across the industry to understand all of this and ensure that it all works. We want to ensure all parties work together to the benefit of the industry, so Moonpull is focused not on pointing out advertisers which are compromised – but on providing a granular report so the techie at the advertiser can see exactly what the issue is and how to fix it.

Listen to the full podcast here:

Or listen on Spotify, Google Podcasts or Amazon

Hear Steven Brown speaking at Elevate Summit

Steven Brown will be speaking at the Elevate Summit in June. Steve is keen to meet up and continue the discussion over the summit, so make sure you get in touch and add your thoughts.

See more on the Affiliate Insider website >

Chris Tradgett, Moonpull

* The buy.at affiliate network founded by Steven Brown was acquired by AOL in 2008, and then again by Digital Window in 2010; read more on Wikipedia.