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  1. #1
    Network Rep & ABW Ambassador Carolyn - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Trademark bidding
    Okay, here's one I hear almost every day...a merchant, with trademark terms in place, discovers that an affiliate is violating trademark terms. The merchant tries, and is unable to get a response from the affiliate.

    If the merchant terminates the affiliate from the program, all inbound links that the affiliate set up break and the merchant shoots themselves in the foot, because really, they would have that spot were it not for the affiliate in violation of terms.

    What would be an acceptable course of action for the merchant, and is this something that should be included in the bill o' rights?

  2. #2
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    There have been (several) previous discussions about this and one solution that some merchants and AMs seemed to like was setting the offending affiliates commission rate to zero after X number of failed attempts to contact them. This way the customer is still directed to the merchants site, the affiliate isn't rewarded for breaking the rules and hopefully XX clicks and no commissions will get their attention.

    As far as inclusion in the Bill of Rights, I don't think so. I'm not sure there was total agreement on this or any method by merchants or AMs. It may be best left up to each merchant to include their own remedy in their TOS. Frankly anything that affects payment should be governed by TOS, not by pledge.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  3. #3
    Full Member TerriFalcone's Avatar
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    If the affiliate does not respond after emailing them several times then notify them that you are bringing their commission to zero. That will generally get the attention of even the most constant violator. In addition you can let them know that if they don't remove the links within a month that they will get negative feedback from you to warn other merchants. The affiliate program should share some of the responsibility for policing this type of practice but I have not found them doing anything about it.
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  4. #4
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    There have been (several) previous discussions about this and one solution that some merchants and AMs seemed to like was setting the offending affiliates commission rate to zero after X number of failed attempts to contact them. This way the customer is still directed to the merchants site, the affiliate isn't rewarded for breaking the rules and hopefully XX clicks and no commissions will get their attention.

    As far as inclusion in the Bill of Rights, I don't think so. I'm not sure there was total agreement on this or any method by merchants or AMs. It may be best left up to each merchant to include their own remedy in their TOS. Frankly anything that affects payment should be governed by TOS, not by pledge.

    -rematt
    +1
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  5. #5
    Affiliate Manager FriendlyPlanetTravel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    There have been (several) previous discussions about this and one solution that some merchants and AMs seemed to like was setting the offending affiliates commission rate to zero after X number of failed attempts to contact them. This way the customer is still directed to the merchants site, the affiliate isn't rewarded for breaking the rules and hopefully XX clicks and no commissions will get their attention.

    As far as inclusion in the Bill of Rights, I don't think so. I'm not sure there was total agreement on this or any method by merchants or AMs. It may be best left up to each merchant to include their own remedy in their TOS. Frankly anything that affects payment should be governed by TOS, not by pledge.

    -rematt

    Great Idea!
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  6. #6
    Affiliate Manager guinness618's Avatar
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    Don't bring their commission to zero, just hold it each month.
    People who have money coming to them are usually more likely to respond then those who have nothing to lose.
    Once the affiliate contacts you and changes the behaviour, then release the commission.
    Dyan Carlson
    ["My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."- The Dalai Lama

  7. #7
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    It can always be credited back as a bonus.
    Bob Pets Warehouse
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  8. #8
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    There have been (several) previous discussions about this and one solution that some merchants and AMs seemed to like was setting the offending affiliates commission rate to zero after X number of failed attempts to contact them. This way the customer is still directed to the merchants site, the affiliate isn't rewarded for breaking the rules and hopefully XX clicks and no commissions will get their attention.
    IMO I want the leverage of being able to cut commissions to get the immediate attention needed when they are poaching. I can't tell you how many times I get an immediate response when this is done and have even done it when I know the ad will result in a dead end. Sometime it is the only thing that can be done when the president of the merchant company is on the phone demanding the ads be removed.

    Top 3 Affiliate responses when their account has been terminated and commissions reversed:

    #3 Didn't see your trademark policy!
    #2 New employee was over zealous but is under control now.

    and the #1 response: Sorry I was on vacation!

  9. #9
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    with trademark terms in place, discovers that an affiliate is violating trademark terms. The merchant tries, and is unable to get a response from the affiliate.
    Key phrase here is "Has trademark terms in place" in their T&C


    Once the affiliate contacts you and changes the behaviour, then release the commission.
    Not a chance, they have viloated the T&C. They should be given an chance to immediately reply to change their links and still potentially forfeit their revenue for violation of the T&C.. or if they fail to reply....0.1% until they realize they have been caught... they will then swfitly reply, crying out about how they didn't know....and they always say they didn't know.

    But it has to be clear and in the program Terms and Conditions. If not the merchant must pay commissions and will need to update their Terms and Conditions and allow the defined time for implementation.

    Cheers

    Chris
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by guinness618
    Don't bring their commission to zero, just hold it each month.
    People who have money coming to them are usually more likely to respond then those who have nothing to lose.
    Once the affiliate contacts you and changes the behaviour, then release the commission.
    Networks pay out commissions, there isn't a way to "hold" them. It's either pay them, set to zero (or as low as allowed by the network) or terminate them.

    I like rematt's solution also. As pointed out though, it has to be clear in the merchant's TOS or no action can be taken until after the TOS is updated to regulate bidding terms.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  11. #11
    Believe knight01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    As pointed out though, it has to be clear in the merchant's TOS or no action can be taken until after the TOS is updated to regulate bidding terms.
    Being clear in the TOS meaning, not buried in the middle of a paragraph in the middle of a 25 paragraph TOS written in part legalese and part Klingon (went to see ST) that a non-lawyer would be able to find and understand.

    Also, lets make it clear that changing the terms does not mean you can retro-actively reverse the affiliate commissions or remove them from the program. Per the bolded by me, the action is on commissions and actions going forward not those from the past.
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  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    SAS in particular instituted a place to put any PPC restrictions separate from the TOS so that any affiliate can quickly and easily access that information. Like knight01 says, if it's buried in p25 of legalese mumbojumbo and gets overlooked it is understandable. I have run into MANY merchants that do have specific terms buried in the TOS, but the PPC policy is empty. No surprise that the terms aren't seen

  13. #13
    Affiliate Manager guinness618's Avatar
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    Hey Loxly,
    With LS, I am able to hold or deny commissions.
    Dyan Carlson
    ["My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."- The Dalai Lama

  14. #14
    Network Rep & ABW Ambassador Carolyn - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Perhaps then, in the Merchant Bill of Rights:

    If desired, Merchants will clearly state their trademark terms within their Terms and Conditions, and will further make every effort to ensure that these terms are known by the affiliate. If the affiliate is non-responsive to trademark PPC warnings, the Merchant will be able to take reasonable action.

    And that would be accompanied by best practice recommendations that would not be included in the Bill of Rights: i.e, list or link to trademark terms in welcome letter, include trademark policy in merchant description, make an attempt to contact the affiliate before making any changes to commission rate or payment schedule, etc?

  15. #15
    http and a telephoto
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    Quote Originally Posted by guinness618
    Hey Loxly,
    With LS, I am able to hold or deny commissions.
    It doesn't work that way with Shareasale, or CJ that I know of. I've never managed a merchant on LS so didn't know that could be done.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  16. #16
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    If desired, Merchants will clearly state their trademark terms within their Terms and Conditions, and will further make every effort to ensure that these terms are known by the affiliate.
    How about if they be required to fill out the PPC Terms if they have any, instead of hiding them in the TOS? That makes it so much easier to find that information before you even sign up. Nothing wrong with putting those terms in the TOS, but then don't leave the "PPC Terms" blank as if there are none.

  17. #17
    Network Rep & ABW Ambassador Carolyn - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Hm, I think at the moment ShareASale is the only network that has a separate PPC Terms section... not sure how the other networks handle that?

  18. #18
    Affiliate Manager zooma230's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    It doesn't work that way with Shareasale, or CJ that I know of.
    CJ allows merchants to extend (hold) commissions once, I believe for one pay period. After one extension, the merchant must pay out or reverse the commission.
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  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    not sure how the other networks handle that?
    You're right of course, but if they don't, it would be very helpful if they did.

  20. #20
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    Keeping track of prohibited terms is a huge headache -- and one that I haven't even started to work on in my current project (I'm simply deferring all PPC activity, even promoting my own sites, until I can find a way to automate the import of prohibited-terms).

    I'd like to renew my request for some mechanism to download a complete list of "prohibited terms" from all my merchants (quite simply, a list of keyword/merchant pairs). That would make it much easier to identify issues and automate propegation of negative keywords into campaigns. ( I know this can never be completely automated because merchants often insert "concepts" instead of precise keywords, and some merchants even combined multiple keywords in a single record).

    Unfortunately, I can't conceive of any practical way to deal with certain merchants' absurd policies (for example, prohibiting all PPC activity used to promote the affiliate's own site).

  21. #21
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    It doesn't work that way with Shareasale, or CJ that I know of. I've never managed a merchant on LS so didn't know that could be done.
    Yes as Debbie said on LS a merchant can delay or edit payments prior to approving the monthly commissions, which then sets in motion the payment process to pay LinkShare those commissions. while a nice clean sysem for managing all the payments the flip side is that if merchant doesn't process that data in a timely manner at the end of a month then commissions get delayed as there is no commission deposit with LS.

  22. #22
    Advocate mellie's Avatar
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    Trademark and ppc guidelines should appear in the merchant's TOS to ensure that if there are changes affiliates will be notified (most networks notify affiliates of any change in TOS). For ease of use and finding restrictions the guidelines should also be pulled out and repeated in a specific section titled Trademark & PPC Policy. That would ensure affiliates (and merchants) have easy access.
    Melanie
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  23. #23
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mellie
    Trademark and ppc guidelines should appear in the merchant's TOS to ensure that if there are changes affiliates will be notified (most networks notify affiliates of any change in TOS). For ease of use and finding restrictions the guidelines should also be pulled out and repeated in a specific section titled Trademark & PPC Policy. That would ensure affiliates (and merchants) have easy access.
    It would nice if networks all had systems similar to SAS that not only listed these terms but also automatically mailed out to everyone when a change was made to the PPC terms, and as aid to the merchant also matched and tracked the phrases to incoming referral URLs where possible to enable merchants to quickly find and review violations

    Cheers

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  24. #24
    Affiliate Manager Matt McWilliams's Avatar
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    Everyone, this is great stuff!

    As far as what should be done in a perfect world...

    The affiliate would not be paid for any sales that are made in violation of the TOS or keyword bidding restrictions.

    If the affiliate does not reply and/or correct the problem pronto, the commissions that are legit should be held until the problem is corrected as a ransom for fixing them.

    If the affiliate does not fix them, the merchant is getting free traffic. When they do, they get paid.

    What sort of penalty should the affiliate get though if it is not possible to determine what sales were made from the bidding violation?
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  25. #25
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    I know there is a PPC policy for affiliates to read up on.

    Is there a straight forward for an affiliate to look it up easily, table, RSS, etc?

    Coming from a merchant's side, I know the freaking frustration when affiliates go all out to earn a commission eventhough he/she knows the policy. From Geo-targeting to Day parting, etc. It's like a cat and mouse game. Usually a ZERO commission rate will get his or her attention after emails. Even the negative feedback or reporting to SAS via PPC violation does nothing for that affilaite as he never response.

    What Bob mentioned make sense too in terms of offering a bonus for legit ignorant affiliates.

    On the other side of the coin, what if the affiliate truly did not get the email due to spam? Getting zero commission does not really help put food on the table.

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