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  1. #1
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    The Last Click is Overrated
    MediaPlex (the analytic arm of ValueClick which owns CJ) just put out a press release:

    While much of the credit for final conversion events continues to be attributed to the "last click" - which is often paid search - Mediaplex's Path to Conversion findings reveal how consumers interact with multiple online channels prior to that final conversion event.
    This research done by CJ seems to indicate that companies are overpaying for the last click and underpaying for other efforts.

    I suspect that this study will be read by many CJ Merchants. So I wonder how merchants will react to it.

  2. #2
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    This is news? We've discussed this often, often in the context of parasites, and sometimes in discussion of coupon sites. We all know that many consumers visit a merchant site several times, often coming from multiple sources (including multiple affiliate sites, as well as PPC-search, and CPC and CPM ads).

    It does raise a question, though: which merchants pay for "all" sources (e.g. crediting BOTH direct PPC and affiliates for a transaction from a consumer who clicked from both sources) and which merchants have mechanisms to prevent payment of affiliate commissions if there was a later non-affiliate-PPC click by the same consumer?

  3. #3
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    The MediaPlex news release is just common sense backed up with data.

    The news is that CJ is currently distributing this information to merchants; So it might affect things in the upcoming year.

    In the worst case scenario, merchants will use this information to justify lowering commissions during the recession.

    I hope that merchants try to find ways to pay more for the exposure that leads up to the sale. I would think that merchants could do things with bonuses to compensate for the last click bias. There ought to be a way for the people who deliver the second to last click to get some compensation once in awhile.

  4. #4
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    Does this mean they are going to offer a way for CJ clients to "work around" last click? And anyone with brains knows that yes it takes multiple touches and multiple channels to get the shopper to make the "buy" decision. Hence cookie duration since the affiliate participated in the buy decision. The last click being natural search or PPC doesn't overwrite the affiliate cookie of the affiliate that drove the customer to the merchant site at some point during the shopping experience. If it did then cookies become almost useless.

    Yes, it will be interesting to watch what Mediaplex and CJ do with this data.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  5. #5
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    When merchants raise affiliate payouts to the same levels that they pay for their PPC and media campaigns, then it may be time to think about a different attribution model but there is probably not an online media (banner) campagin out there that generates more in revenue than the media cost to run it.

    In order to make media campaigns "look" like they make money, the ad servers count sales attributed to "view through" data. Essentially if someone visits a page where a banner loads on the page (even if the person doesn't see it) and then 30 days later goes and buys something, that sale is attributed to the banner campaign. Many of those campaigns are targeted to show banners only to people who have already been to the merchant site. There is a lot of fuzzy math and fuzzy reporting out there designed to justify programs that don't make any business sense at least from a direct response ROI perspective. There are also hundreds of millions of dollars that are squandered on ad buys like that.

    The definition of "interact" should be included in that press release. Is it really interact as in click on or just be on a page that loads the code for a banner?

    Seems like all the ad server companies claim that the more "interactions" a person has with an ad, the more likely they are to buy but the ad targeting is not explained - are they using lead back technology in which case you may be serving ads to people who were already going to make a purchase or other ad targeting options that beg the question, did the ad have any influence on the purchase or was the campaign targeting setup so as to load banners on pages where customers who were already going to buy happened to be?

    Every study like this that comes out doesn't provide those details and basically just tells the advertiser - spend more money on media so the media properties can make more money and in this case MediaPlex can make more money on ad serving.

    PPC campaigns w/o brand terms that affiliates don't generally have to work with do not come out to show the return that affiliate programs do. In most cases, affiliate payouts are already low enough that about all they are getting paid for is the last click.
    Last edited by Superstar; June 16th, 2008 at 04:54 PM.

  6. #6
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Ethics are at the root here. The optimist in me says the research is good. But the experienced realist in me says CJ's parent and subsidiaries (read "tentacles") want to position themselves for even more unethical shitake. As if getting paid for cookie popping adware thieves and BHO-mongers wasn't enough, once they stake a claim to have touched a sale and "contributed", I shudder to think what all they'd then do to get their ad network impressions to occur... since they've been "proven" to be a part of the sales process... next step for them will be to carve up what we collectively are paid so that margin is made available for the "other" stuff they are capable of doing to "touch" a sale.

    Butt quivering news, if you ask me.

    Merchants, better ask yourself just how much trust you place in an ad network pumping and pimping their value with methods that make a lot of assumptions about cause and effect... cuz these ValueClick folks are the same guys the FTC nailed recently...

    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/03/vc.shtm (my bolding)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Online advertiser ValueClick, Inc., will pay a record $2.9 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that its advertising claims and e-mails were deceptive and violated federal law. The agency also charged that ValueClick and its subsidiaries, Hi-Speed Media and E-Babylon failed to secure consumers’ sensitive financial information, despite their claims to do so. The settlement, filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, requires ValueClick to clearly and conspicuously disclose the costs and obligations consumers must incur to receive the products it touts as “free” and bars future violations of the CAN-SPAM Act. The settlement also bars deceptive claims about the security of the consumer information collected at its e-commerce Web sites.

    According to the FTC, ValueClick subsidiary Hi-Speed Media used deceptive e-mails, banner ads, and pop-ups to drive consumers to its Web sites. The e-mails and online ads claimed that consumers were eligible for “free” gifts, including laptops, iPods, and high-value gift cards, and included come-ons such as “Free PS3 for survey,” and “CONGRATULATIONS! Select your FREE Plasma TV.” The FTC alleged that consumers lured to ValueClick’s Web sites by these promises were led through a maze of expensive and burdensome third-party offers – including car loans and satellite television subscriptions – which they were required to “participate in” at their own expense, in order to receive the promised “free” merchandise. The FTC charged that ValueClick’s use of deceptively labeled e-mail offering free gifts and its failure to disclose that consumers must expend substantial sums of money to obtain the promised “free” merchandise violates the CAN-SPAM Act and the FTC Act.

    The FTC also charged that ValueClick, Hi-Speed Media, and E-Babylon, misrepresented that they secured customers’ sensitive financial information consistent with industry standards. The FTC alleged the companies published online privacy policies claiming they encrypted customer information, but either failed to encrypt the information at all or used a non-standard and insecure form of encryption. The agency also charged that several of the companies’ e-commerce Web sites were vulnerable to SQL injection, a commonly known form of hacker attack, contrary to claims that the companies implemented reasonable security measures.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Remember, the FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices.

    So should we listen to their research... or place bets on the next time they get busted for lying.

    In their defense, they are setting records in some areas:
    http://www.imediaconnection.com/news/18734.asp

    Saw some people here were surprised that Affiliates were getting bad press lately... IRCE conf... Jason C keynote... are you really surprised when our largest network is behaving this way and getting publicly caught and spanked? Talk about pollution and trash and contamination... ValueClick's the litterbug from hell.

  7. #7
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    The further you distance yourself from the Ad industry the more legit you'll become in the eyes of consumers and affiliates... Me to Linkshare CEO in 1998.

    What happens... the major networks built on our pre-sale activity all get bought up by Ad industry giants... LOL.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  8. #8
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    I have to agree. I doubt VCLK would do what is right. Google's mantra is "Do no evil." VCLK's mantra appears to be: "Do evil until the public outcry is so loud that you are forced to do otherwise."

    The common sense argument behind the Mediaplex article is that mass affiliation has created a battle for the last click, as opposed to battle for adding value to a sale. In my opinion, artificial incentives in the market tend to detract from the market.

    It would be impossible to find a way in mass affiliation to reward page views (that metric is too easy to manipulate). I could see some value to setting up a program that split commissions over clickthrus. For example, if two clicks happened within 24 hours of the sale, the program would split the commission between the two affiliates. That way both the site who sent the customer to a merchant and the site who gave the customer a coupon could receive reward for their work.

    The battle for last click creates imbalances. For example, it is what fuels parasiteware. The goal of the parasite is to muscle in and create a last fake click to grab the commission.

  9. #9
    Affiliate Manager Howard Gottlieb's Avatar
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    I still say that the only logical solution here is to have a period of time where cookies can not be overwritten. I have proposed a 30 minute window might prevent parasites and others from stealing customers obviously delivered by a different affiliate.

    I have seen responses that say that the parasites would simply find ways to become the first cookie. I would suggest that would be much more difficult and, in the worst case, would throw a wrench in the status quo for a while.
    I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die
    to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there
    isn't and die to find out there is.

  10. #10
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    First cookie doesn't solve anything. Example (just one) Somebody could have a page, do some PPC and when the user lands on the page, cookie stuff them to death, setting all kinds of first cookies. And then when they go to a site that has some real info that leads to a sale, that site won't get credited.

    Also goes back to closing. It's who closes that gets the sale. Learn to close.

  11. #11
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    I agree with Trust, traditional first-in doesn't solve any problems, in fact, it creates a few more.

    There's a little more to it than being last though, but the majority of these additional issues can be resolved with good policing of no-value affiliates combined with an understanding of the interactions of any lesser value affiliates.

    Imagining that splitting / allocating every touch is somehow superior, without any real value or understanding basis for it, is a lot like jumping at first-in as an answer, your chance of moving backwards is higher than your chance of motivating your partners to bring you more incremental (new!) sales.

    And to twist, as this ValueClick reports does, an intermediate impression or click into something automatically of value, is foolish, touches don't tell the value story well. Further, given their deceitful track record, most would be wise to summarily ignore all of their advice.

    Last-in should be the start point in a well policed program. You can take it a step further by rewarding specific high value acitivies that may often get trumped by last click natured events, but before considering that, policing comes first, that'll get your farther towards your goals as a merchant and towards becoming an attractive partner to valuable affiliates.

    ~~~~~~~~~

    One flaw I'd like to point out in the 30-minute freeze theory... let's say someone is reading reviews of a certain product or searching for the right coupon to get them to buy, and they're hopping from site to site looking for something compelling... the freeze may lock out the affiliate who most made the sale happen among that string. Last in recognizes that best, that the one who pushed them over the edge, was the closer. The earlier ones didn't sufficiently close. You've got to be careful here though, some events have an inherent timing issue to them that can disrupt the usual conclusions one would make. Lastly, since most purchases happen within 30-minutes of the hand off to the merchant's site, a 30-minute freeze would give adware forced cookie setters and BHOs a wonderful advantage that would work against any legitimately referring affiliates.

  12. #12
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    So the last cookie is over rated a tad, there's sometimes more to look at. But the first cookie doesn't mean much at all in some cases. And any arbitrary system that pays each touch an equal share also has deep flaws in it's theory and execution.

    Before moving from last-in, policing would be a better move for any merchant than first-in, (not so) smart splitting or hybrid system. If you've got policing down solid, and I mean layers and well-oiled policing, then learning about conditional hybrid makes sense for some merchants.

    If you've got BHOs in your program, you're inspecting the bark by reading this ValueClick report and you've missed the forrest and the trees completely... you're in a bark lab, dog. Woof. Go for a walk in the woods, then visit a scenic overlook of it all. And take off those microscope glasses, gector, you're myopically blind.

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