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  1. #1
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    Zero or One day cookie durations are NOT a best practice. Many recommend at minimum seven day cookies.


    Zero or one day cookies should not be called "unethical" (because it is not a matter of ethics) as long as the merchant is clearly posting and stating their cookie durations to prospective partners. Now if a merchant is advertising 30 day cookies and actually treat cookies as 7 day durations that WOULD be unethical because they are misrepresenting their terms.


    As long as the merchant *clearly* states their cookie duration then affiliates know what the terms of agreement are before they sign-on.

    If a zero or one day cookie duration is not what you feel is good business then don't accept the contract, don't sign up and don't send the merchant traffic. Again, affiliates choose who they partner with and on what terms they do business.



    regards,
    Wayne

    Wayne Porter
    V.P. Product Development
    AffTrack LLC.
    http://www.afftrack.com
    http://www.revtrends.com
    Advanced & Automated Data Analysis for Performance Marketers.

  2. #2
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Wayne,

    A Zero day cookie IS unethical because it exploits the non parasitic affiliates' traffic and only servers as a branding tool for the merchant. If a merchant is desirous of such they should use the other channels that cost tens of thousands of dollars instead of raping the small guys!

    <font size="2" face="Verdana">Haiko


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli
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  3. #3
    Affiliate Summit Guy Shawn Collins's Avatar
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    Haiko -

    I think you are totally off base on this one. Like Wayne said, it's certainly not a best practice to have cookies for zero days or one day.

    If a program fully discloses this fact, there is nothing unethical. Shortsighted, yes, but not unethical.

    When agreeing to a partnership, a certain onus is on the affiliate to make themself aware of the dynamics of the partnership.

    To complain retroactively that cookie days were too short is akin to complaining to a police officer that the speed limit is too low after he has pulled you over for speeding.

    Ignorance of the rules is no excuse. Always read the agreement before promoting a program.

    Shawn Collins

    scollins@clubmom-inc.com
    Director of Affiliate Marketing
    ClubMom, Inc.
    200 Madison Avenue, 6th Floor
    New York, New York 10016
    tel 646.435.6513
    fax 646.435.6600
    http://www.clubmomaffiliates.com

  4. #4
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> As long as the merchant *clearly* states their cookie duration <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Surprise, surprise, I agree with Wayne on this one.

    Full disclosure is a big part of what it takes to be ethical.

    CJ is okay in that regard, but lot of merchants elsewhere make that detail ferociously difficult for an affliate to find out. That's where ethics become dubious.

    We could also talk about bait-and-switch tactics, when a merchant recruits affiliates on the basis of, say, a 45-day cookie, then after the affiliate has put links up, created feature pages, maybe bought advertising, quietly changes to a 1-day cookie ...

    Lotsa horror stories!

  5. #5
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Shawn,

    Applesauce!

    It is very obvious what the merchant intentions are when they offer a zero day or sub standard cookie duration.

    Read the Agreements? Yeah ok! I've read the agreements ... they all say parasitic activity is not allowed, but yet it is!

    Low cookie durations are schemes that preclude joe and jane affiliate from doing do shot against the thieves, but the thieves can continue to give joe and jane affiliate "the shaft".

    <font size="2" face="Verdana">Haiko


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli
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  6. #6
    Affiliate Summit Guy Shawn Collins's Avatar
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    Haiko -

    Why not just stay away from the merchants that do not have cookie days to your liking?

    I think it would be great if the affiliate program directories added cookie days as a field in their applications.

    Shawn

  7. #7
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Shawn,

    Yes, educated ones will but will the masses when there is no indication? I think NOT!

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>I think it would be great if the affiliate program directories added cookie days as a field in their applications.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    This, also, will happen!

    <font size="2" face="Verdana">Haiko


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli
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  8. #8
    Affiliate Summit Guy Shawn Collins's Avatar
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    Haiko -

    I said...

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>If a program fully discloses this fact, there is nothing unethical.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    If there is no indication of the cookie duration, and they have zero days or one day, then I agree, they are being unethical.

    Shawn

  9. #9
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Shawn Collins said:
    "If a program fully discloses this fact, there is nothing unethical. Shortsighted, yes, but not unethical.

    When agreeing to a partnership, a certain onus is on the affiliate to make themself aware of the dynamics of the partnership."

    This is exactly what we have been begging Befree to devulge upfront for years. I've tried for months on end to see what the cookie duration was back during the Cashpile network CEO forums. No need to check on the 200+ deadpool merchants burried there all we ask for is those who currently run programs to put in in their merchant profiles on their signup page.

    I'll put you in charge of this Shawn as your e-mail requests might get more response than mine. Just post the results here so we can seek out BF merchant partners for Holiday sales.

    WebMaster Mike

  10. #10
    Affiliate Summit Guy Shawn Collins's Avatar
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    Mike -

    I'm happy to share the ClubMom cookie duration (the only one I can control): 365 days.

    Since my program is no longer at Be Free, I don't want to step on toes. I'll clear the way for Scott Jangro to share the news.

    Shawn

  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador affiliatemakeover's Avatar
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    Yes, it is the affiliates responsibility to read the contract first, and then choose whether or not they want to do business with the merchant. And yes, if the merchant is hiding the fact that they are turning off cookies, that means they are unethical.

    But aren't we dodging the real question here?

    Why do most merchants treat affiliates as lead generators, instead of as partners? I say this in a general sense, and only have my experiences and what others have told me as examples.

    Also, why do some merchants continue to support parasitic partners? We all know the answer is $$$. It's business, and I've learned to accept it. Doesn't mean I have to like it though, and doesn't mean I can stand up and shout about it either.

    The words "ethical" and "business" shouldn't be combined in today's competitive marketplace. Our laws, or lack thereof had made it perfectly clear that the definition of "ethical" in regards to business is not defined and at the very least, loose as a goose.

    The informed will stay smart, yet the new/ignorants will get shafted. Isn't that what this board is for, to educate?

    Unfortunately, the majority of the affiliates out there don't know a cookie duration from the bottom of their shoe. The merchants are winning due to lack of education on the majority part.

  12. #12
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    Haiko said, "A Zero day cookie IS unethical because it exploits the non parasitic affiliates' traffic and only servers as a branding tool for the merchant"

    Small affiliates provide very little in the way of brand awareness because the amount of exposure they give is small.

    Affiliates must take responsability for their business and dictating cookie durations will never work. CJ tried to do with it with 45 day cookies and merchants didn't like it. CJ finally figured out that this is a free market.

    Short cookie duration is in no way unethical, just not a best practice.

    AM said "Unfortunately, the majority of the affiliates out there don't know a cookie duration from the bottom of their shoe."

    Every productive affiliate I talk with knows exactly what cookie durations do.

    -wayne

    Wayne Porter
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    AffTrack LLC.
    http://www.afftrack.com
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    Advanced & Automated Data Analysis for Performance Marketers.

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador affiliatemakeover's Avatar
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    [QUOTE]Every productive affiliate I talk with knows exactly what cookie durations do. QUOTE]

    That's right Wayne. The point is, the majority out there aren't productive affiliates. I would gather that 1% of affiliates make 90% or more of the profits in this business. I have nothing to back that up, but I believe it to be true.

    So therefore we're left with the majority being uneducated, which opens the door wide open for bad merchant practices.

    We cannot disregard the small fish in this pond. They must learn, unfortunately, that they need to keep their eyes open at merchants who want to use them. That's what I try to do, and what I have seen many merchants who participate on this board try to do as well.

  14. #14
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Small affiliates provide very little in the way of brand awareness because the amount of exposure they give is small.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    HORSE MANURE!

    Your telling me that 800,000 affiliate sites for amazon don't offer far reaching branding? Get REAL!

    you can't track the branding effect of the smaller (uneducated sites) so you can not disallow it in to the equation!

    Lets go back to Advertising 101 ... why does tide put their logo on a NASCAR car? targeted audience? or branding? I can give millions of examples of branding, that I am sure you are, also, well aware of. The zero day merchants ARE exploiting the [affiliate marketing/CPA] system because many of them are still built on CPM models and need CPA explained to them in such terms.

    CPA is a powerful tool that is being raped by the zero day merchants and networks who allow it! Period!

    <font size="2" face="Verdana">Haiko


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli
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  15. #15
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    ____________________________
    That's right Wayne. The point is, the majority out there aren't productive affiliates. I would gather that 1% of affiliates make 90% or more of the profits in this business. I have nothing to back that up, but I believe it to be true.
    ____________________________

    Varies by program, category and product mix but usually 80% of revenue is driven by the top 10% of the sites.

    ___________________
    So therefore we're left with the majority being uneducated, which opens the door wide open for bad merchant practices.
    ____________________

    Zero day cookies is not a "bad practice" it is not a best practice.Tip- Savvy affiliates will go as far as to negotiate custom cookie rates. Everything is open to negotiation in this business.

    Zero cookie does not mean zero value. There are merchants that have zero day cookies that run very large volume and high conversion programs. Affiliates prefer longer commission durations and if they can't get them they need to make a decision if the duration they have fits their model. If not they must learn to walk away from the table. If enough walk away then by virtue of free market pressure a smart merchant puts forth better terms.


    ___________________________
    We cannot disregard the small fish in this pond. They must learn, unfortunately, that they need to keep their eyes open at merchants who want to use them.
    ____________________________


    Affiliates must have a certain set of skills before they can compete. Without that training, without these skills and knowledge the deck is stacked against them- but they have to take their own time to get educated. I would love to see formal testing and training of performance marketers.

    The bottom line here is this isn't a labor union. This is free enterprise at its finest. Affiliates are independant business people who make their own decisions. That is what I find really exciting about it. ANYONE who is clever, persistent and works hard enough has a chance to make it. Most of the successful smaller affiliates I know put in enormous amounts of work and work smart. That is why they are successful.

    For example, if a business signs a contract with someone who has a terrible credit record, then no one really feels sorry for them when they can't collect. If an affiliate signs on to a merchant who doesn't keep to their promises, hides their cookie duration, has a lopsided agreement, etc how can I have sympathy for them?

    Of course you never really know if people will keep their promises and that is called RISK. Every independant business must expect some risk.

    Affiliates must act like business people and scrutinize their contracts, their rates, and the duration of cookies.

    best,
    Wayne

    Wayne Porter
    V.P. Product Development
    AffTrack LLC.
    http://www.afftrack.com
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    Advanced & Automated Data Analysis for Performance Marketers.

  16. #16
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    Haiko,

    Amazon is an exceptional case. I did speak out about what I felt was a lopsided contract: Reference Amazon Contract Review

    (In Amazon's defense they have improved their terms since this article.)

    Affiliates who feel they are being used for free brand awareness should do any of the below:

    a) Drop the program
    b) Charge a slotting fee
    c) Use a hybrid structure to compensate
    d) negotiate better rates using categorial EPC analysis


    As long as affiliates are willing to participate in programs that do not focus on direct response they will continue to net lower returns. Affiliates, again, are ultimately responsible for who they do deals with.

    regards,
    Wayne

    Wayne Porter
    V.P. Product Development
    AffTrack LLC.
    http://www.afftrack.com
    http://www.revtrends.com
    Advanced & Automated Data Analysis for Performance Marketers.

  17. #17
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    I believe it's incredibly dangerous to say that 1 or 0-day cookies are "unethical".

    It muddies the waters when we need to reserve the "unethical" epithet for practices that really are unethical, such as Parasiteware software that hijacks a visitor while they're visiting a 3rd party site.

    As several people have said on this thread already, if you FULLY DISCLOSE up front the cookie duration, then there is nothing unethical about having a session-only or 1-day cookie. It would only be "unethical" if a merchant were to lie about cookie duration.

    On the other hand, if your competitors have 45-day cookies, then the 0-day cookie is certainly not very competitive but again the word "ethics" doesn't come into it.

    A comparison: I can sell you a product for $10 that you can get down the road for $1. Nothing unethical about that, but it's certainly not very competitive of me. As long as I sell for $10 a product that is labelled with a $10 price tag, I have done absolutely nothing wrong - it's just business. And if shoppers choose to buy my product because they're too lazy/uninformed/disinterested/whatever to go down the road and buy it at 10% of the price, then that's the old Caveat Emptor - buyer beware!

    So please, reholster the "unethical" appelation when it comes to this particular issue, and don't be so quick to draw next time! Anti-competitive and short-sighted, maybe - unethical, NO.

  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador affiliatemakeover's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Wayne Porter- AffTrack:
    ____________________________

    Affiliates must have a certain set of skills before they can compete. Without that training, without these skills and knowledge the deck is stacked against them- but they have to take their own time to get educated. I would love to see formal testing and training of performance marketers.
    ____________________________

    I think we agree that anyone in business has to be educated to compete. There is a learning curve, yes. That really isn't the issue I'm arguing.

    In your scenario, an rookie affiliate learns about short cookie durations by getting burned. In my scenario, the rookie affiliate never has the chance to get burned because we either educated them first, or stopped the merchant before they could do it.

    Again, I don't think it's unethical. It is business. I guess it all comes down to if you think it's ok in a business sense to short-sheet cookies, or not. I personally don't like it, and as a small affiliate who is still learning, it cheeses me off.

    I've always been somewhat of a subversive person anyway, so I'm usually fighting for the little guy. FIST! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

  19. #19
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    To many merchants are now simply trying to take advantage of unsuspecting and new affiliates and just want branding rather than forming a fair business relationship. Now, on top of that, lets add that "there is undisclosed information regarding cookies" and whether or not it is intended or not, the networks cause confusion in this area as well

    For example: At Linkshare, they don't call it cookies at all they call it return days. Laugh if you want but as a newbee, I actually took a "high return days" as a bad thing because it would limit my ability to get commission for a sale. Think basic as a newbee here and not as a seasoned professional. Do you get it? I find the use of this term very ironic.

    At Befree, they don't even post cookie information at all that I have seen. How is this ethical?

    At CJ, I hear they can turn off cookies after a sale is made but..... is this information disclosed and made available for me to consider? No! I'm not even sure if the "cookie turn off "thing is just for linkshare or CJ or everyone. Wayne - I'm sure that since everything is disclosed in your mind that you will respond and enlighten me on this point though. Please do I really want to know.

    At performics they call it commission duration.

    Does it seem like each network should have a different term regarding the most important piece of information regarding how an affiliate is rewarded? Is this meant to confuse a newbee? It may not be meant to but the fact is it does! My very skeptical comments regarding them establishing standards will be omitted!

    I think many of you are missing a subtle point here which is: there are many newbees here who have no idea what cookie duration or return days are but yet are going out and applying to merchants and putting their links on their pages. Heck I still have some I haven't got around to taking down myself. But I'm getting there. I'm in favor of this forum and in favor of calling it unethical due to these concerns and knowing that in fact I was confused myself.

    This forum should benefit seasoned professionals like you as well as newbees and nothing personal Wayne but when I read your posts I don't think I can remember a one where you take a newbees basic lack of knowledge into consideration.

    I think ABW should set it's own set of standards in what is fair or not regardless of what a merchants agreement is. If you want to change the name of this forum to DON’T BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF BY MERCHANTS instead of "unethical merchants" that would be fine with me.

    I just don't want a single new affiliate coming in here to make the same mistakes I made or be mislead concerning these terms or the lack of disclosure.

    I also want to send a very clear message to the merchants employing these tactics that ABW is going to do it's part to help ensure these tactics on unsuspecting newbes will no longer be as effective as they once were. I look at this forum as another step towards achieving that goal

    My view on these merchants is lower than that of the parasites and you know how I feel about them.
    Let me end the same way I did on another post

    "It's not only the parasites who are taking advantage of affiliates!"

  20. #20
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    I agree that a lot of the terminology and practices employed by the affiliate networks would seem to be aimed at penalizing newbies.

    However, I believe this is much more down to the lack of any kind of coordinated organization between the networks, rather than a deliberate attempt to mislead. When you look at any new industry (and affiliate marketing, especially in its current relatively organized form with networks et al. is a VERY new industry) you first see a profusion of confusing standards, and nomenclature. Then after a while everything settles down and people agree (by force of habit, if nothing else) to all call a given thing by the same name.

    Personally, I think "return days", "cookie duration" etc. are all too technical or convoluted and that a new term should be simultanously adopted by all networks which would self-define its meaning. Something like "tracking days after initial visit", while long, is already a step closer to being understandable.

    Again, however, it's important that "confusing people" can certainly be viewed as incompetent - but it is (rarely) unethical.

  21. #21
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    Happy

    "At CJ, I hear they can turn off cookies after a sale is made but..... is this information disclosed and made available for me to consider? No! I'm not even sure if the "cookie turn off "thing is just for linkshare or CJ or everyone. Wayne - I'm sure that since everything is disclosed in your mind that you will respond and enlighten me on this point though. Please do I really want to know."

    I don't know everything Happy, but I will answer this the best I can. And for the record- I do agree with you on this issue [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]


    CJ is not the only network that offers a "cookie keep" or "cooke delete" option. I am 95% certain that the other networks offer this functionality in some form or the other. CJ has just happened to get flak over it publicly. I heave heard that CJ is moving towards providing this information with their next major update, but I can't speak for them.

    I think ALL networks should inform partners if cookies are kept or removed after the sale. I think merchants should have the choice to keep or delete cookies. And I think affiliates should go with terms that suit them.


    Keep in mind that the networks have to appease both the affiliates and the merchants. Networks would always prefer to see merchants KEEP the cookie after a sale is made, however that is not always the case.

    The networks could force merchants to do this, but then the merchant would be probably tell them to stick it and go to another network. The networks are engaged in rather fierce combat, everyone trying to get the premium business. They have the tough job of having to accomodate two conflicting group's desires. I had to work from both sides of the fence before I understood this.



    What I suggest- start by doing some basic data gathering. Poll the merchants on ABestWeb and ask them for their cookie retention policy. It doesn't hurt to run some tests either. Haiko could make this a policy that ABestWeb merchants must keep a valid link to their affiliate agreement, and they should provide a basic cookie policy (how many days, if they are retained, etc.).

    Some other things merchants do with cookies.


    1) Some send out e-mails and use a different domain to capture orders. Thus SampleCo.com sends out an e-mail and processes the order at SampleCo-2.com domain. Naturally this doesn't work well for big brands but I have seen it go on with smaller businesses.


    2) Merchants also use technique one when they ship orders and put a special deal in their packaging that asks them to re-order at a different domain.



    Tactics 1 and 2 are sleazy in my opinion and I would avoid those merchants. I think it would be better to focus your efforts on getting their retention policies published then to focus on trying to say merchants who have 1 day cookies- since I doubt many will change from that if it is their current policy. You can always try to negotiate better cookie policies at some networks. i.e. at Performics the merchant can adjust cookie durations for any single affiliate.

    Then you get into other grey stuff like a customer orders 3 products on one ticket and the customer returns 1 of the products. The merchant simply reverses the entire sale and doesn't adjust the sale to compensate the affiliate for the other two...

    Hope this helps,

    Wayne

    Wayne Porter
    V.P. Product Development
    AffTrack LLC.
    http://www.afftrack.com
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    Advanced & Automated Data Analysis for Performance Marketers.

  22. #22
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    It is unethical and here is why.

    The true reason for zero or one day cookies doesn't concern affiliates such as ourselves who are educated about the facts. Zero day cookies are intended to sucker the newer mom & pop style affiliates who probably haven't even figured out what a cookie is.

    I would guess that 90% of affiliates fall into the uneducated category which means there is huge money to be made from all of the suckers.

    Not only suckers but let's face it when a highly branded merchant is available we tend to want an have them on our sites even if just for credability.

    So yes one day and zero day cookies are unethical regardless of being properly represented or not.

  23. #23
    ABW Ambassador affiliatemakeover's Avatar
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    Here's a twist. I just got this email from a merchant who read my column on this exact subject on clickZ.

    Here's my article:
    http://www.clickz.com/aff_mkt/aff_mk...le.php/1470361

    Here's one of the emails I just got (name removed):

    ___________________________

    Hello,
    I read your article about CJ and as a merchant I had to tell you I was surprised - this
    is the first I've heard of the keep no functionality. In all my discussions with CJ
    they've never mentioned it. Maybe it is not as widespread as you may think - I'm
    optimistic.

    I have to agree with your article though that our affiliates do deserve to have those
    cookies active for the traffic they drive for an extended period of time. Our cookie is
    set to 45 days.

    If you find out more about the keep no functionality and how many people are
    actually using - I'd like to know how wide spread it really is. My hope is that more
    merchants out there really do value their affiliates.

    _________________________

  24. #24
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    Here is some good news about this folks,

    When I saw that rugman was changing to a 1 day cookie policy, I wrote them and pointed them to this thread and asked them to reconsider as I and others would stop promoting them if this occured.

    I see an email now that seems to indicate they will be changing to a 30 day cookie instead of the planned 1 day cookie. I have asked for verification that the 1 day cookie wil not be changed on the 4th as initially outlined but that sure is what the email indicated.

    Score 1 for ABW members!

    Here is the goal I hope we can all accomplish here and ask that each you make suggestions to more effectively meet these goals:

    1) Educate new affiliates that merchants using these tactics are more interested in getting branding (company name recognition) / free adverising and free leads from which they will not have to pay a commission on.

    2) That ABW views merchants employing the above tactics as unethical and suggest our members not to promote them.

    3) Make our members aware of the dangers of ignoring item 2 above and that continued promoting of merchants employing this tactic may set a dangerous trend and result in more and more merchants moving over to this approach.

    Yes, we could just live in "Wayne's world" and say screw um and find another vendor to promote but what happens when 90% of the merchant pool changes to this approach?.

    "I believe that each merchant we let move over to this tactic is a loss of a potential source of income and further, that each merchant we let continue to be successful in employing it dangers the long term viability of affiliate marketing". After a while the entire merchant pool will be garbage. I want more business choices now fewer!

    4) Alert merchants employing this tactic that ABW is working to make it members aware we view this tactic as unethical and will suggest to our members that they not promote them.

    I'd like more input on what you think in regards to this and if you are in favor of ABW taking a stance here? If you do agree, then what would be the best way to meet that end.? I'm not sure this forum is setup properly to address all of the items outlined above effectively.

    My basic suggestion for next steps would be to collect the massive list of merchants currently employing this tatic while reorganizing to adrress the goals outlined and start taking steps to mount a formal campaign here against merchants employing this tactic.

    I'm willing to do much of the leg work here but you all know my writing and spelling can stink and my fingers always get tied up [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] Just be aware that however unprofessional a letter I write, my heart is in the right place and I want to help change this business to be a more profitable one for us all.

    To that end, I'd appreciate your input.

  25. #25
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    17,328
    This project to map out the cookie durations of prominent merchants for all here to see is very important. The Parasites don't care as they set cookies at the time they interlope on the sales of others pre-sell efforts. Merchnats have used Zero & 1 day cookies as a tool to evade commissions for years. Getting into BeFree merchants cookie durations is the problem since both CJ and Linkshare ( you have to click on the individual merchant "commission offer level link) publish these.

    After many attempts at e-mailing BeFree merchants over the last 16 months I only was able to get 5 to respond!!

    WebMaster Mike

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