“We’re a lot more sophisticated” CJ on PI LIVE Europe and the Changing Affiliate Marketing Landscape

Day one of PI LIVE Europe 2023 is well and truly underway, so as the crowds gather and the buzz begins, we caught up with Linda O’Connell, Senior Vice President, UK & Ireland, at CJ, to discuss her plans for the event, what it means to be a headline sponsor, and how the affiliate marketing landscape has changed over the last year.What are you most excited about leading up to PI LIVE Europe this year?We’re super excited! We’re headline sponsors and so really supportive of this fantastic event. I love it because it’s the perfect opportunity to meet with colleagues and peers but also meet new potential partners as well. It’s a great place. Everyone within the industry is really in that one space to meet and connect. It also always has great sessions as well, so I’m keen to be attending a few of those.For us, having these kinds of industry events is really important because it encourages people from all over the industry, be they publishers, advertisers, or agencies, to meet and network with us. It also presents a great opportunity for us to showcase what CJ can deliver for all of the different partners that we work with and our clients, but also for our people to attend these events and listen to a lot of the insightful sessions. There are always a lot of takeaways for our team and also our clients, and I think it’s important to support events like this as we’re certainly an evolving and growing industry, so the more networking events like this that we have – with thought leadership as well – it can only be a good thing for our industry.Why do you think it is important for the industry to share knowledge and key insights about the affiliate marketing landscape’s growth?It’s clear that affiliate marketing has experienced remarkable growth in recent years. I recently reflected on just how far we’ve come as I actually just marked my 18th anniversary with CJ. Of course, I was very young when I started, but CJ itself is celebrating its 25 years in the industry this year.It’s incredible how much affiliate marketing has grown and a recent study stated that the value of affiliate marketing globally is expected to surpass 36 billion dollars by 2030, which is pretty impressive when you think back to its size 25 years ago.I think there have been a number of contributing factors to this, it has certainly been helped by the continued growth of the Internet and associated technologies, which makes it a lot easier for consumers to identify products and services that they want to buy and they’re more willing to try different products and services. This has also completely blown open the doors for publishers and how they can develop new models of reaching new consumers and how they can also optimise and gain their own customer loyalty. We’ve seen a lot of new ways in which consumers are tapping into new consumer bases through social media, influencer marketing, and technology providers like RevLifter, Intently, and UpSellit, to name just a few. But also the more legacy publishers such as your voucher and cashback sites continue to evolve, grow, and adapt to their own audiences and also offer more ways for brands to target their own customer base. I think we’re just becoming a lot more sophisticated in how we’re working with each other. Finally, especially more through the pandemic, I think more advertisers are realising how affiliate marketing is so cost-effective for all business sizes, to enable them to reach new customers and they’re investing more of their spend. I think the kind of keyword for me is that we are a lot more sophisticated and we also have a lot more data at our disposal, which is something CJ looks to provide within our platform for publishers, advertisers, or agencies as it enables them to monitor and optimise their programmes and campaigns. It’s such a fundamental part of how we have powered affiliate programme management. One way that the landscape has changed majorly in the last year is the introduction of the Affiliate & Partner Marketing Association (APMA). Could you tell us more about CJ’s, involvement in this?I think it builds on my previous point that, as the digital ecosystem continues to evolve, affiliate marketing is going to remain a pivotal strategy for companies seeking to try and enter that e-commerce or online marketplace. I think our industry is at a stage now, particularly in the UK, where we need some kind of trade body or association that can help champion and positively advocate for the channel as a collective industry voice. That’s something that we strongly support at CJ and why we’re one of the founding members of the APMA.Kevin Edwards spearheads it and he’s already done a significant amount of work to get this to a launch stage, which PI LIVE has kindly helped us with, but really the aim of the APMA is to be a representative of the four key parties of our industry: advertisers, publishers, agencies, and networks. We’re looking to build this from scratch and it’s completely dedicated to affiliate marketing, which I believe is the first time we’ve ever had a dedicated resource and support like this for affiliate marketing, which is fantastic for the industry. There’s already been some fantastic work done, thanks to Kevin and the support that he has, we’ve already established a Code of Conduct and Kevin held workshops with each of the four parties so they were able to share their needs. We’ve created already quite a long list of projects which can range from standardisation and best practices to training and helping build up our talent pool. It really encompasses all facets, all the areas within affiliate marketing and performance marketing, but to be successful, it would be great to get more support and commitment for people to be involved. A New Industry Voice: The Launch of the Affiliate & Partner Marketing Association: If anyone would want to hear more about the APMA, I’ll be speaking with Kevin Edwards and Julia Stent on the first day of PI LIVE on the Well Stage at 2:50pm! It should provide you with all the information anyone would want to know about the APMA and how to get involved and hopefully join up! We’re very excited about that.What makes CJ’s solutions unique in the affiliate marketing industry, and how do they address the needs of advertisers and publishers at the same time?We’ve certainly been on a journey since when we started back in 1998, I think we had one advertiser, and today we’re very honoured to have more than 4,000 brands and hundreds of thousands of publishers globally across our networks. Even looking back when I first started in 2005 in the UK, we just opened our French and German offices and we were opening up in Spain and Sweden, and now we’re all over Europe, which is phenomenal. A key milestone for us was our partnership with VIVnetworks in Eastern Europe which was over a 10-year partnership, then last year they became our first business acquisition which has really solidified our presence across Europe and our growth globally. Our teams have grown and so has our extensive network of publishers, and even now we continue with our recent partnership with Tyroo | CJ, which will further build upon our footprint in APAC and other markets around the world. Another milestone for CJ was definitely when we were acquired by Publicis Groupe in 2019. That’s been fantastic for our business and our people; being part of the largest media agency in the world brings great insights and a wider understanding of how brands work across other marketing channels. For CJ, that’s important because we see the future of affiliate marketing, not where we’re siloed but to think about the different types of publishers and how each of those reach consumers along the entire customer journey.Affiliate marketing amplifies and compliments other marketing channels, which is why we’ve built CJ’s Cross Channel Customer Journey analytical tool within our platform which gives transparency on the entire customer journey across an advertiser’s different marketing channels as well as within affiliates. It’s proven what many in our industry have suspected, which is that whenever an affiliate engagement is part of that consumer journey, the advertiser’s results are a lot better. We’re looking to change the minds that affiliates aren’t just a channel made up of partners that want to steal the credit at the last minute, but there’s a lot more in terms of how we can amplify other marketing channels, which is why having an industry body like the APMA is going to help.We truly value our 25 years of partnerships and the trust that we’ve built. Certainly what I’ve seen through my own journey is that CJ has continuously evolved to meet the changing needs of both our people, but also our clients. From 1998 to now, CJ is not just an affiliate network, but a true performance marketing platform, and our offerings have evolved to include that.


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