When you should Drop an Advertiser

carsten cumbrowskiThe discussion at Brad Waller’s post “Reason #4837 Why This Industry Needs an Association” from Friday about the Hydra Network/Vista Print incident and publication of the incident at MediaPost.com sparked two separate discussions that were not exactly related to the subject of the post.

I want to talk about one of them and maybe about the second one in a separate video post.

Jonathan (Trust) suggested pulling the Hydra Network ads on ReveNews.com, although Hydra Network responded and indicated that they don’t want to pull their advertisements, even though the post about them was not exactly talking in their favor.

Angel Djambazov pointed out the

“separation between editorial and advertising”

and cited the “Editors Code of Preferred Editorial Practices” (PDF version) by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) stating:

“… Let the advertiser know that negative content will be written about them and allow them the opportunity to remove their ad.”

and

“This allows editorial and advertising elements to be balanced while eliminating reactionary mob mentality.”

Kelly Stevens also pointed out that

“it’s an ad not an endorsement. As marketers, we all should recognize that.”

and that

“normal economic principles need to dictate. …… business decision of bringing targeted advertisers to the readers.”

If

“… there is no response to the ad. It becomes an unproductive campaign for them. …… Advertisers who fit with the demographics of the ReveNews.com viewership have successful campaigns.”

She also said that in case of her own website, AffiliateFairPlay.com, companies approached her to advertise on it, who she exposed as being unethical and that those advertisers obviously didn’t do their homework well and checked in more detail, what Kelly’s website is all about. She rejected such advertisers because

“it would undermine what my business is. So that trumps the ethics considerations.”

I agree completely with Kelly and Angel. I spend some time thinking about this dilemma myself.

Since I consider the advertisement on my own site Cumbrowski.com editorial content, except for the ads where I do not have editorial control over, such as Google AdSense, I call them Sponsorship instead of Advertisement and associate my name/brand with the advertisers brand (and vice versa). I made this clear in the editorial note on my website, which can be accessed from virtually any page on my site.

But this is because the site uses my name, which is my brand. Cumbrowski.com is not business publication with a brand name that is not associated with a person and a publication that tries to be fair and balanced overall, even if the individual bloggers express their own personal views. For this reason ReveNews.com tries to get as much different types of bloggers as possible, to be able to represent the different views and opinions of people in the affiliate marketing industry.

ReveNews.com did the right thing in case of Hydra Network and provided the ability for Hydra Network to make an official statement, provide comments and/or publishes a separate post, even with comments off, if insisted, which wasn’t the case with Hydra Network, but in another case that involved a post of mine here at ReveNews.com.

I think that a publication like ReveNews.com should separate advertisement on its website from the editorial content and should put a border between them, that advertisement will not influence content and vice versa, because it would take away the means for an advertiser to respond to the allegations and do damage control, send a message that changes were made, if the allegations were just, clarify facts, fight misconceptions or correct false information that were stated like facts.

All this could be done via an ad campaign that is visible beyond the one post about them, because some people might hear about this, but did not read the posts themselves. They might develop an opinion that is less favorable for the advertiser and maybe that is something the affected advertiser would like to correct or change. If ReveNews.com would refuse ads from that Advertiser, he wouldn’t be able to do that.

My video rambles in more detail about this. It is about 8 minutes long.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nbnPWEpziQ[/youtube]

Here is the backup link to the video at YouTube.

You can also download the video in higher resolution and AVI format at MediaFire.com.

Back to the original question, when you should drop an advertiser? … If it makes business sense to do so. If an advertisement causes more damage for your business and/or brand than you gain from it, because of loss of readership and/or damage to the reputation of your brand, then it would be the right choice to pull an advertisement. I dare to speculate that most publications don’t get into the position very often where they have to consider this question seriously, because the advertiser himself tends to answer this question much quicker and clearly before it comes to that.

I support the PMACheers

Carsten Cumbrowski
Internet Marketer, Blogger and Entrepreneur

Cumbrowski.com is a resources portal for internet marketers. The content is free, no strings attached.

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski

21 Responses to When you should Drop an Advertiser

  1. Pat Grady says:

    if there are no penalties (or stigma) imposed by anyone for adware theft, and it yields financial rewards for those who do it, is it any wonder that it proliferates?

    the aggregate ethical choices, made by all involved, shape and influence the environment.

    i'd say collectively that we're worse than a stance we might want to label "adware intolerant", we're most often either ignorant or indifferent or complicit.

    so, as has been the case for many years, the situation will not change. save the occasional zit that Ben or Kellie pops, there's no real impetis for it.

    we have made it part of our natural environment, our pollution, as pointed out by Calcanis.

    the purpose of PR is to convey a planned message… is ours "we'd like everyone to believe we don't tolerate cheating"?

    my point is, collectively, we certainly do tolerate it.

    and when PR isn't true, at its core, it won't ever gain any real traction.

    so let's skip the PR too… maybe we could give away some keychains or coffee mugs instead.

  2. Hi Pat,

    first of all are not all facts available yet to come to a final conclusion about how bad things really are. I haven't heard a word from VistaPrint and the answer to Ben Edelman's question (comment here) for the Hydra network is also still missing.

    The point made by Hydra network, that there are advertisers who want to do business with AdWare is not just a speculation, it's almost certainly true.

    The advertiser with an affiliate program who supports adware is to blame the most. It also makes clear what that advertiser thinks about his regular affiliates. Hydra being a facilitator is not nice and tells you something about the morality of the network overall. However, if the advertiser is fully aware of this and Hydra just provides the means then you could compare Hydra with Weapons manufacturers who produces land mines and easy to use assault rifles. Those things are never used for something good and almost always have innocent civillians as their victims.

    As Brad said, it's just another good reason for an association, where best business practices are clearly defined and also bad and immoral business practices are being labeled as such. Businesses that are engaged in bad business practices would not be allowed to put up a seal for example where it claims to follow best practices as defined by the association.

    Those businesses would basically distance themselves from the bulk of affiliate marketers and that in a visible manner that can be noticed by an outsider. .. and suddenly are the ethical folks not included anymore, if an outsider talks about them, because for those folks are the bad guys also "them".

    If the bad press for Hydra continues here, then they will pull their ads, almost for sure, unless they have too much money to burn, just for the sake of it.

  3. "As Brad said, it’s just another good reason for an association, where best business practices are clearly defined and also bad and immoral business practices are being labeled as such. Businesses that are engaged in bad business practices would not be allowed to put up a seal for example where it claims to follow best practices as defined by the association."

    And therein lies one of the biggest problems when you have people in the association that are going to be on opposite ends of what's "bad and immoral" How is that going to work when some of the biggest pushers of adware and adware folks themselves are going to be in the association?

  4. Well, if you ask me, when you take money from someone, whether you have your advertising and content "seperate" or not, then you are supporting them. To me it's the same thing as giving them a thumbs up, keep up the good work. I would remove them even if they were the only paid advertiser I had. As affiliates we have had to deal with them all of our careers as advertisers like those big numbers, networks like being able to make advertisers sales the same day they start a program, etc.

    I was selling over 100,000 in computers for one advertiser in one month, I showed them video of ebates overwriting my links, they showed it to whoever at befree and they told them ebates was doing nothing wrong, so, nothing happened other than I quit selling their computers.

    Piss on everyone who uses adware to make money, everyone who buys traffic from them, every network who feels they must keep them around, piss on everyone who runs a website and forces some of this stuff on users computers, like antivirus xp 2008.

    Keeping the ad up just agrees that it's all about making money and nothing else matters.

  5. Pat Grady says:

    "first of all are not all facts available yet to come to a final conclusion about how bad things really are."

    Carsten, I'm not picking on you or your ethics here, I do understand this is complicated to many – not only what happens, but what lines they should personally draw given the pervasiveness of the shenanigans.

    However, the naivete you display when you assert the facts on Hydra aren't in yet is laughable. Years of abuse, demonstrated and reported time and again and yet the most respected people among us (again, I'm NOT referring to just you here Carsten, but virtually all of our industry's leaders, both major and minor) cannot find the fortitude to label a poor player as exactly that.

    If Hydra had used a knife, instead of adware, to rob these merchants of margins over the years, there'd be an uproar.

    Also, I do understand that some merchants want to use adware – many want to spread their name as far and as wide as possible and anything goes, including spam and adware and more. But that's not the issue we're talking about here… can you give me one example of a single merchant who would knowingly want an affiliate to use adware to pop a cookie on them seconds before a consumer's purchase is completed so that this particular affiliate is paid a commission for their "work"?

    Go back and read the story you linked to on mediapost… "Adware researcher Ben Edelman published a new report Tuesday saying that some affiliate marketers use adware to get commissions on sales they're not responsible for."

    Or read Ben's report:
    http://www.benedelman.org/news/093008-1.html

    This isn't adware name spreading as a reason for merchants to accept some pilfering to get their name out… this is rogue, thieving affiliates and the networks that support them STEALING credit for sales they did nothing to help produce.

    Until we can see these issues in a clear light in which they occur, our fuzziness, whether intentional or through laziness or incompetence or confusion, the players like Hydra and Clickbooth that know EXACTLY how to steal and to dismiss it as well, will continue unabated. Just as they have for many, many years.

  6. "And therein lies one of the biggest problems when you have people in the association that are going to be on opposite ends of what’s “bad and immoral” How is that going to work when some of the biggest pushers of adware and adware folks themselves are going to be in the association?"

    Well, if the majority of people in the association or industry, if the members represent a fair cut of the affiliate marketing industry itself, decide that adware and spyware is okay, then we wouldn't have a problem, wouldn't we?

    Also we could stop whining, because the opinion that the outside world has about the industry would be accurate.

    Not participating in an association that wants to represent you, people like you and other people who are part of the industry, is the biggest problem possible, because it would mean that the association would have failed.

    Failed, because it would not represent the industry, no best practices could be acknowledged and accepted industry wide and everybody would be again on its own (with occasional short term allegiances AFTER stuff happens), if legislation decides once more to regulate some of the stuff, like spam, tax, privacy, distribution etc. that affects affiliate marketers.

  7. Pat, I hear you and I also understood the part of Ben's report that showed that the Adware was triggered over the merchant website itself to get credits for sales where they played no part in the conversion. That is what adware does (not all, but too many). Nothing less can be expected from somebody who is involved in unethical business practices. Merchants who believe in "ethical thugs and thieves" are just plain stupid. The ones who know accept this "drawback" and file it under "cost of doing business".

    So the Merchant is the party that should be scrutinized the most. Without him, there wouldn't be AdWare or helpers-helpers who facilitate between the unethical merchant and the adware thugs.

    This does not make it nice and okay what Hydra is doing. I think that helpers-helpers and facilitators who provide the means, tools and infrastructure for the thugs and thieves are not better than the thugs and thieves themselves, but that is my personal opinion. Using this principle, half the governments of Europe and the United States would have to be imprisoned, but that is wishful thinking and far off from the grim reality. Conservatives and Nationalists probably disagree with it and they are entitled to their own opinion.

    That is the whole point. The separation between editorial content and advertisement removes the element of prejudges, allegiance, personal opinion and ethics etc. because somebody has to make the decision to accept an advertiser and that somebody is a human being and not a committee that discusses each advertiser and then votes, if he will be accepted or not.

    However, this option works only for many publications, but not all of them. I pointed out that in some cases, opinion has to play a role, if the opinion is what your brand and business is all about. e.g. Kellie's site and also my own site, because it uses my name and I am a person (and thus being prejudges and opinionated).

  8. "Well, if the majority of people in the association or industry, if the members represent a fair cut of the affiliate marketing industry itself, decide that adware and spyware is okay, then we wouldn’t have a problem, wouldn’t we?"

    ? If they decide it's ok, yes, there would be a problem. I think you might have typed that wrong. If you're meaning if the association decided it was wrong, it would be a good thing. That's now how this business works. You can say it's wrong but the people doing wrong aren't going to care that some people in a room voted that what they're doing is wrong. It's their business and they're going to run it as they see fit.

    "Not participating in an association that wants to represent you, people like you and other people who are part of the industry, is the biggest problem possible, because it would mean that the association would have failed."

    The association is only going to represent the people in the association, not the industry. There's not going to be some small group that self annoints themselves the voice for the entire industry. Now I know there are some good people involved and I might agree with most of what comes out of it but you still only rep the other members. It's an industry of individual businesses that make their own decisions and most have no problem speaking up for themselves.

    "Failed, because it would not represent the industry, no best practices could be acknowledged and accepted industry wide and everybody would be again on its own (with occasional short term allegiances AFTER stuff happens), if legislation decides once more to regulate some of the stuff, like spam, tax, privacy, distribution etc. that affects affiliate marketers."

    Best practices? Carsten, we already have agreements we get into with merchants and networks. We already have best practices like the Code of Conduct, LinkShare's Addendum etc. This business is already regulated with laws. Already exsiting laws apply to this business and they've also made some new ones to address specifics of this industry – http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/ruler

    So, this whole we better do something before the government steps in doesn't bother me. If anybody should be worried about that, it's not those involved in ethical marketing it's those who aren't. The only thing that can come out of the association is a suggestion of new best practices but that's all it would be, a suggestion. Because people (networks/merchants) could say so what or we don't agree and that's it because it'll have no teeth. And even when we had such things, like the COC or Addendum, the problem was enforcement. So why would that problem disappear all of a sudden.

  9. Wayne Porter says:

    Jimmy,

    You know what I liked about your approach? YOU took the video and sent it in. Publishers of mags, or bigger merchants etc do NOT have time to investigate every infraction or complaint. Well I guess they can but it will get old fast.

    Now if the business person takes out the time to document the infraction using a professional layout, and terminology then I think most places will indulge you or you will have to educate them.

    In your case they had no idea so they turned to the network. Most networks do not want the hassle of adware they keep them around because of MERCHANTS.

    Yep- that is who demands the relationship be there…

    Some networks are dependant on big merchants to survive…network's commission is even less than an affiliate.

    If one fails to survive- they die. Is it fair you have to police someone else's site or network? Not really, but business is business and if it were easy everyone would do it. You could litigate against them, and maybe someone should…who do you sue?

    But I liked the fact you didn't approach them empty-handed. You backed up your claims out of the gate. Far better way to go because bitching in forums has been ineffective for years and I don't see the forecast changing soon.

    -wayne

  10. This approach tackles the issue from one side, one merchant at a time. Tackling it from the other would be the creation of some sort of association or organized movement that shows and demonstrate what good business practices are and how to conduct itself in this industry ethically. Businesses could associate themselves and show allegiance with it on a voluntarily basis to put their money where their mouth is for the public to see.

    This is a PRO approach to counter the stuff that is bad and unethically versus an AGAINST approach, which would require the definition of clear set rules for what NOT to do and the creation of some sort of system that polices the industry and would be required to draw a clear line between OK and NOT OKAY on a daily basis. Who is to draw this line and on what basis? The fears of Trust and Jimmy are well founded when it comes to this approach, because it is prone to be corrupted and manipulated. It wouldn't be the question of if this could happen, but when.

    A PRO approach is not as easily corruptible and does not have the seed for violent conflict build into it. The AGAINST approach promotes force rather than choice. You cannot force people to be good and don't do bad things, that never worked. Instead, you have to give them the choice to do the right thing and chances are that they will do so voluntarily, without the need to push and force anybody. This holds true for the majority of people at least IMO. Think about it, which approach is more likely to resolve the conflict in the Middle East for example? An ANTI-War approach or a PRO-Peace one? Arguing AGAINST the war, creates a conflict with anybody who has the slightest argument for it, as small as it might be. This does not solve anything and nothing will happen, because you will never get beyond the debate itself. Argue PRO peace and you find yourself in a position where people can agree and act upon, regardless if they believe that the War is justified or not.

    I used the Iraq war as an example, because I believe that everybody in this country (and beyond) can relate to it much better and has a much stronger emotional opinion about. It allows me to illustrate the radical difference between the PRO and ANTI/AGAINST approaches. Does that make sense?

  11. Trust,

    "? If they decide its ok, yes, there would be a problem. I think you might have typed that wrong."

    I made some typos what they did not affect what I meant. I was cynic and not stating an opinion with those few sentences.

    "The association is only going to represent the people in the association,"

    I agree with you here

    “not the industry."

    That depends on which people will be in the association. If those people are making up a representative cut across the entire industry that the association can claim to be representative. It probably could even act as a representation, even if it does not, because of the lack of anything better and the lack of an opposing voice and opinion that will be heart.

    The association does not require that the majority of professionals in the industry will be part of the association in order to become representative of the industry itself. You should know that. Just look at the turnout data for general elections in this country to understand what I mean.

    http://elections.gmu.edu/voter_turnout.htm

    "Best practices? Carsten, we already have agreements we get into with merchants and networks."

    You threw into the discussion multiple things after those 2 sentences that mean something to you and to me. Each of them is a complicated thing by itself that confuse outsiders even more. Add to this the varied interpretations and vague verbiage used and you will find yourself where we are now.

    If you think, that everything is all right and peachy today, good for you, but many other folks, including me, would not agree with you on that. I do not believe that this is true though; but let us assume that this is the case, for a moment.

    If you are not involved in anything that others see as a problem, you could care less about this movement.

    Why, because the things it tries to change would have either no effect on you at all or would improve things that you did not consider much of an issue for yourself in the first place.

    "So, this whole we better do something before the government steps in doesn’t bother me. If anybody should be worried about that, it’s not those involved in ethical marketing it’s those who aren’t."

    That there are more things than business ethics shows the New York State incident, but you also could care less, if you are not living in New York. You probably would have a different attitude, if you would be living in NY or if your state implements something like it tomorrow.

    Furthermore, I do not mind a government that steps in with laws that are practical and effective in doing what they were intended to accomplish. I do not know of many politicians who are involved in affiliate marketing, but see repeatedly, how outsiders conceive what the industry is and what it does and worried that politicians will make decisions about laws that will affect me and what I do, based on those misconceptions.

    It will not make a difference what I actually do, because it would be irrelevant. There would not be a differentiation between people who do and who do not, because it would be assumed that everybody does it.

  12. Pat Grady says:

    As we discuss whether it's better to be PRO ethical behavior or ANTI cheating, our industry has thieves loving our conflicted inaction.

    Watering down what is happening with delusions that some merchants want this behavior, or clouding the discussion with PRO/ANTI war stance talk, or excusing this away as a cost of doing business, or swallowing that it's a small problem while evidence smacks us otherwise, are exactly the reasons why nothing has ever been done to stop this behavior.

    Carsten, clarity is needed. Hydra needs to be denounced for allowing this activity to happen. If anything short of that occurs, the quagmire of confusion will continue.

    People like you need to clearly say that Hydra has a fiduciary responsibility to their clients that they are willfully, negligently disregarding.

    Can you join me in saying Hydra is a bad actor in our industry? Or would you like to postulate more war stance theories to obfuscate what Hydra, and others like them, are doing?

    And I feel compelled again to say that I'm not directing this argument at you with specificity – in fact, your willingness to discuss it intellectually raises you far above the din. You need to exercise a little greater clarity, and others who lead in our industry need to be much more like you (and the you I urge you to become).

    We are seeing the signs of our collective neglect slowly growing. A problem exists, it needs to be acknowledged and attributed before we can reasonably discuss potential solutions. Sadly, most are unwilling to admit the problem and view and share it with any modicum of clarity.

  13. Pat, I used the example of the war to illustrate the significant differences between the PRO and the ANTI approaches.

    I dedicated a whole post at SEJ to this subject in an attempt to better illustrate my views.

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/anti-versus-pr

    I am a strong believer that the PRO approach will work better than the ANTI one. The ANTI approach has the tendency to turn into a radical witch-hunt, denunciations, black-mail, hatred and the seizure of any constructive discussion.

    I will not join a denunciation campaign against Hydra, because I think that it would be a waste of time and energy and not have any positive long term effects.

    On a personal note. I am looking at any CPA network with suspicion and do not trust any of them any further as I am able to spit. This includes prominent CPA networks like AzoogleAds, Neverblue, XY7 and the countless others out there.

    I even extend this suspicion to the traditional affiliate networks like CJ and LinkShare and there are only a few that I trust. Trust is lost quickly and earned only slowly with a lot of efforts needed. The loss of trust was caused by the networks themselves.

    I do most stuff today outside the large networks, most of the time via direct relationships with merchants, using their in-house tracking platform (custom or out-of-box solutions like Kowabunga). I used to be performance partner with BeFree once to see that networks can do better, if they want to. If they would treat all of their publishers like their special performance partners, things would be better, including for the networks themselves. Many of the "privileges" don't cost the networks anything to justify the limitation to only a few selected publishers.

    Back to the issue and the PRO and ANTI approach. I believe that it will be more efficient and long term successful, if we recognize and highlight the good players and reward businesses who self-restrict themselves by adopting clearly spelled out best practices. The reward would be official recognition like a seal of approval or something of that sort. This would have to be advertised not just within this industry, but to the outside as well, that industry outsiders are able to easily recognize good players in the industry who are recognized by their peers and also able to find out quickly what being a good player means.

    This implies what not being a good player means to the industry itself. Those "not good" players distance themselves from the rest of the industry and if legislation decides to target those, it will be fine with me.

    Does this make sense?

  14. Pat Grady says:

    "I will not join a denunciation campaign against Hydra, because I think that it would be a waste of time and energy and not have any positive long term effects."

    I'm not inciting a smear campaign here, but was asking for you to take a stance for yourself. My "Can you join me in saying Hydra is a bad actor in our industry?" was referring to my personal stance on Hydra (which is grossly negative), nothing more.

    One last question for you… why is it that you refuse to label Hydra as a bad actor? I am not beginning a witch hunt here, it's a serious question and it's face value is all there is to it. Do you, for example, believe they can't police their affiliates? Or that it's such a small issue that it doesn't matter or isn't worth the effort? Do you believe they do so much good for the industry that the negative aspects aren't worth the bad actor label (like calling a newspaper bad cuz they use up trees)?

    I am truly curious why so many in our industry are unable or unwilling to call a spade a spade.

    And again, I assert that our collective unwillingness to call bad actors what they are, is what is slowly but surely undermining our industry. Professionally, our indifference makes us marginally culpable. Our inaction has grown on us like a fungus, and I think as a result, it's here to stay. Honest ethical folks like you had their ethical judgment ability, and willingness to wield it, rendered impotent through years of neglect, and atrophy has set in.

    The idion "reap what you sow" means to experience the results of your own actions… but it's our inaction that's obvious here… so we're more like the lakeside residents who don't bother to notice our neighbors toxic runoff… or we've decided to just admire the lovely green glow it gives off.

    And in my analogy here of a lake and it's monstrous inhabitants, the multiple layers of irony of a network called Hydra is both comical and striking.

    Have a great day Carsten, and enjoy the view of the lake… for now.

  15. Pat, I would not give Hydra network a seal of approval or badge labeling them as a player who is a good example for a company who is following best practices. I would also not recommend them. If you don't do your homework and make business decisions based on flashy ads that you see, sorry, but you should know better than that.

    They operate in a grey area that was not created by them. They do that for business reasons and probably don't feel bad about it. I worked in a big corporate environment long enough to know that ethics are rarely high up on the priority list.

    Ethics usually only move up on that list, if there are clear and measurable business benefits that come along with it. If that is not the case, ethics only have a chance, if they come as an added bonus or minimal expense (in time and money).

    Highlighting and promoting ethical players would be such a business benefit. A badge or seal to show this must be strong and branded to make it desirable to get one. As I said, I am for a PRO approach and not an ANTI.

  16. Pat Grady says:

    "They operate in a grey area that was not created by them."

    It is your choice to see it as a grey area. I assert that knowingly allowing network affiliates to steal from their merchant clients isn't grey at all. And Ben's reported details and analysis of them are not grey by any stretch of the imagination.

    Further, what we've been also discussing is our industry's leaders being unwilling to condemn theivery – you've confirmed for me, by calling what Ben has reported here specific to Hydra as a grey area, that you are among those leaders in our industry that are unwilling to flex your judgment muscles.

    And yet again, I want to clearly say I'm not picking on your Carsten – you're willing to discuss these issues publicly, and yet there are many other leaders in our industry reading these comments and are also unwilling to pass any amount of judgment or criticism on Hydra. Collectively, we lack a ethical backbone, so as an entity, our defenses against internal cheating aren't aggressive white blood cells but are a lumpy gelatinous rudderless ooze… and Hydra's boots can continue sloshing right along through it with relative ease.

  17. Pat, I have to admit that I did not look at all details about the Hydra network due to the lack of time. I have my whole family from Germany here, but I don't want to use that as a cheap excuse. I only want to say that I did not dive knee deep into the Hydra issue. What I am missing to make strong statements like you want me to make are information and statements from all involved players. I still miss any comment from Vista Print. If there is any, please let me know. The merchant is supposed to be the victim as well, even more so than its affiliates, because they lost (lose) more than just commissions on some orders like their affiliates. They pay commission on a lot more transactions.

    If the merchant does not consider this expense theft, then it changes the game significantely. I am saying this, because there are merchants who accept knowingly this extra expense is exchange for traffic and sales at all cost. That can be a profitable excercise for everybody involved (except the clean affiliates of that merchant), if product margins are high enough to still make profits after all those expenses.

    That is the reason why I still call it grey, because I have to assume that Hydra did what they did in consensus with the advertiser. It still looks black from an affiliate point of view, but it does not require adware to make it look black for an affiliate. I have always a bad feeling in my stomach, if I think about all the business that I bring to my partners that is not tracked and where I do not get a penny in commissions for. Some industries are more affected by this than others though. I see it mostly for the stuff that I do outside of paid search, but that is a different topic all by itself.

    Now my point is that I believe that hunting down and researching all those cases is energy that could be much better spent on a different approach at the whole thing, the promotion of good players and the specification and discussion of the specification of what best practices actually are, the work on industry standards and communication channels, the establishment of an arbitration mechanism where conflicts between the different parties in this industry can be resolved as an option before legal actions are taken, which are costly and more time intensive.

    This will help everybody. You can spend today all your time and energy on cases like the Hydra Network/Vista Print one and what are you going to do after that? The next case of unethical behavior by somebody else, after that the next one and so on and so forth. This will never end, because new bad players will enter the market and the industry continues to stay as it is today. The only thing you accomplish is the creation of a "trophy" list with bad players you exposed and maybe even put out of business. This is a waste of time in my opinion and the only thing gained by it, is an ego boost and a moment where you feel better, because justice was served, only to fall back into all this crap to start all over from where you left off before.

    Does this make sense?

  18. Sorry.. I feel the need to say a bit more here (that's what you get for calling me out, I guess :) )

    This hunting down of bad players is nothing more than a witch hunt and the hunters in a witch hunt tend to become not much different from their prey, because that is what you need to do in order to become a good hunter.

    You have to know your prey, what it does, what it thinks, what it feels.

    As I also pointed out already, is all this very vulnerable for corruption and manipulation. It also tends to bring out the worst in people. It encourages and leverages denunciation, betrayal and black mail. That's not very nice stuff to build your foundation upon. Look at the Paid Links issue and Google and you will see what I am talking about. I don't want to trigger Godwin's law here, but we all know that those principles are the seed and heart of societies that ended in world conflict and genocide.

    That's why I don't like it. And there are alternatives. It is not like that you have to go through all this nasty stuff in order to change things… you probably know that I was raised in East Germany. They tried to teach me, that the only way to change things are radical revolutions with a lot of ugly stuff that you must endure and do in order to achieve the ultimate goal where everything will be good and nobody will have to suffer ever again. That is a myth… a persistent one I might add.

    The alternative is the PRO approach. Do the right thing yourself, encourage others to do the same thing and highlight individuals and entities that were going the extra mile without being forced to do so, but because they thought that it would be the right thing to do.

    People in the grey area will have to make a choice eventually, because they exclude themselves from the rest of the people. That will hurt them at their bottom line. Playing snake and planting mistrust and fear won't work, because it is not the foundation where this approach is based on in order to work. Nobody will force anybody to JOIN or to follow. Actually things like active involvement, improvement and enhancement are much more rewarding than just following the pack. Also the questioning of the what is being done and considered good today, because this might not be the case today as it was in the past when it became broadly accepted.

    Gee, I sound like a preacher man. Funny to say that from myself, considering that I am not religious myself at all.

  19. p.s. I am no leader, I just have a head to think for myself and no fear to say out loud what I really think.

    Some call it being blunt, others call it stupid, but I just call it "being the real me, no fake, no acting."

    It's also not as hard as some people think it is.

    It also has an advantage, which is hard to beat … … it's natural and feels right. I encourage anybody to try it for themselves. Maybe you get a kick out of it too. :)

    You have to accept the consequences of it of course, the good and the bad. But you do not have to worry about the bad ones, since the good ones should be overwhelmingly exceed the bad ones, except if you are an asshole… by heart :)

  20. peter bordes says:

    Carsten

    Dam you always hit the nail on the head and get some fantastic dialogs going. this is a great post and discussion. We absolutely will not tolerate any behavior from publishing or advertising partners that do not hold up to the highest standards.

    Our industry needs to be focused on quality… NOT quantity and all work together to flush out the people that do not ad to the growth and expansion of the industry.

    It is critical. Especially right now. the economy is shining a light on our performance marketing segment of the market. We have very big brands looking at how to enter performance marketing. Some tried before and had a bad experience. If we focus on providing best of breed solutions and programs we could see an enormous chunk of budget come this way and grow the pie!!!!

  21. Hi Peter… Exactly.. don NOT focus on all the things that are BAD in life, but the things that are GOOD instead. Make the GOOD things the CENTER of your attention and make them GROW.

    This will take away room from the bad things and before you know it, the BAD THINGS will be nothing more than a FOOTNOTE, so MARGINAL that it barely requires your attention at all in your everyday life/business.

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