Another great article by Shawn Collins and Missy Ward
There is an issue that has polarized people regardless of their creed, color, national origin, sex, political affiliation, or beliefs. No, it's not the NAMBLA-esque charges against Michael Jackson (you are not alone, Michael!). I'm talking about adware and it's impact on affiliate marketing.
If you're not familiar with adware, ZDNet defines adware as programs bundled with other downloaded software that monitor consumers' Web browsing and serves them ads based on their online habits.
In the spirit of brevity, I'm going to use the term 'adware' generically to refer to the various applications out there that are alternatively called badware, direct marketing software, malware, ParasiteWare™, spyware, etc.
The Way You Make Me Feel
Here's the scenario that has affiliates feeling as though they're being ripped off by adware. Some adware has been known to redirect affiliate links, so that the adware gets the commission, rather than the original referrer of the transaction.
That alone has gotten the hair standing up on the backs of affiliate necks. But another reason that this practice rankles affiliates is that some of the adware is installed on end user machines by nefarious means, such as an invisible drive-by install or as part of a forced installation with freeware.
So, affiliates don't like adware.
Since affiliates have identified adware as a threat to their wallet, they find it in their best interest to thwart adware by any means necessary.
There have been efforts to regulate the madness. About a year ago, there was a meeting of the minds in New York City, where representatives from the affiliate and adware communities got together with the affiliate solution providers (Be Free, Commission Junction, LinkShare, and Performics).
The result was that Be Free, Commission Junction, and Performics published a joint "Code of Conduct" that laid out the rules of engagement for adware within their networks. LinkShare put out an addendum to their affiliate agreement to address the issue.
But many affiliates have expressed that this hasn't gone far enough. So some affiliates are taking things into their own hands, and encouraging their subscribers, visitors, etc. to run software that detects and removes adware.
Black or White
The problem with these detect and remove utilities is that they do not differentiate between an evil monster adware that continues to redirect affiliate links, and the white knight adware that has jumped through hoops to acquiescence to affiliate demands.
From my position as an affiliate, I have listened to the good, bad, and ugly adware characters, as well as the reasonably frustrated affiliates that are seeing things strictly in black and white - believing that all adware is bad.
I'd like to think that I take a Technicolor, non-partisan view being that some adware people out there trying to keep it clean, and they should not be castigated.
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
But some factions among affiliates insist that even the declared clean adware folks are sometimes dirty. The characterization is that these people are flicking a switch to redirect affiliate links here and there. Because at the end of the day, they have dollar signs in their eyes -- or so the party line goes.
Man in the Mirror
One of the frequent assertions by the adware camp is that the other affiliates are jealous. They can't build a better mousetrap. Maybe that's true to a degree. But when I started detecting leakage from my affiliate referrals, I took a look around at the adware options.
I figured I don't know how to build a better one, but maybe it's worthwhile to lease out somebody else's technology and get what's mine. As Ice Cube's character, Savon, said in the 1992 classic film, 'Trespass': "It's all about survival. It's all about getting yours."
But when I poked around at what was out there, I didn't feel comfortable about the risks. The people I spoke with told me that they could not guarantee that the adware would never redirect the affiliate links of others. After all, software isn't perfect, and it's apt to hiccup once in a while.
Leave Me Alone
As an affiliate, I'm eschewing adware for the time being. I'd like to see that current mousetrap re-invented as a better mousetrap before giving it a try.
In the meantime, I think the short-term, imperfect method of getting my members to clean all the adware off their machines is the way to go. Then I can get back to the business of awarding each of them the points they've earned by going through my links.
The occasional adware breakdown has rendered me as collateral damage, and the result… I've had to reach into my pocket to provide goodwill points to my members for the misappropriated referrals.
No more kid gloves.
Shawn Collins and Missy Ward are co-founders of the Affiliate Summit ( http://www.affiliatesummit.com), a pay-for-performance marketing event. Also, Shawn is the Director of Affiliate Marketing for ClubMom, Inc., (http://www.ClubMom.com) and Missy is the Managing Partner of eBound Strategies, ( http://www.eBoundStrategies.com) and adBUMb's #2 Most Powerful Woman in Online Advertising!