2020 wrap-up for affiliates: The good, the bad and the ugly

Oh, where to begin? This was a turbulent year for affiliates. After a great start and what turned out to be our only live conference in London, we soon faced a new world of facemasks, social distancing, and home-alone isolation. 

I looked at the event photos from the iGaming Affiliate Conference at the Excel in London back in February, and it is strange to see everyone in one place, full contact, and no masks. It seems so long ago and freakishly unreal now. The conference was great, especially for Safe Affiliate Programs, which launched officially with drinks at the Fox Bar. 

Following drinks for all, a selected crowd invited by the programs who make up Safe Affiliate Programs enjoyed dinner at ZeroSette. A month later, the UK and many other countries were in lockdown.

This period was a challenge for all governments as they tried to safeguard job security while workers were asked to stay at home. The pandemic hit all the brick-and-mortar businesses across all industries – ours included. 

However, all online based businesses were able to carry on near normal and the likes of Amazon were reaping the benefits of a captive audience. I am sure that anyone who bought Amazon shares before the pandemic hit will have already cashed-in and retired!

As is usually the way, the online gambling industry led the charge and openly changed the way we marketed to this potential “captive audience” mentality and refrained from cashing-in and exploiting a difficult situation.

In fact, casinos were spending their advertising dollars to bring home the message to gamble responsibly in these times. Covid-19 manifested the need to stringently adhere and expand on advertising standards and compliance regulations. 

Some operators took advantage of the book of regulations (pun intended) and interpreted this pandemic as an opportunity to drop affiliates like they were toxic. A sad opportunistic approach to working together that never prospers in the end. Obviously, this never touched the big media affiliates, just some of the smaller ones. 

We know that the smaller affiliate is often more demanding. Wanting more, questioning more, complaining more. But put yourself in their shoes. Would you not want to make sure that your efforts were fruitful, and that your losses were measured? Of course, you would. Hence, they are nervier about dipping numbers and more demanding as they want to succeed. 

In addition to this we have seen some ridiculous questions sent out in the name of “compliance”, all designed at updating the database, but masked as a shameful limitation on restrictions on search engine marketing of general terms. None of which had anything to do with brand protection but everything to do with ridding affiliate programs of competitors.

This is a time when we should be helping the small affiliates grow, sowing the seed of togetherness instead of trampling hopes of affiliates already pushed to the limit. If we kill this marketing vertical and change the landscape of small independent advertisers that want to grow, we essentially kill off the corner shop in favour of the big supermarkets. 

However, not all of 2020 was gloomy, there were some great developments also and I wished more affiliates would have taken up the opportunity to spend time at the array of virtual conferences we were offered this year. 

With the absence of a real conference, virtual conferencing was quickly taken up by everyone who wanted to remain relevant in the conference space. After a great start – when SBC hosted the first conference with success – others followed. 

In short succession we were offered free workshops, webinars, conferences, and exhibitions that at times left us pondering if we ever get time to work between virtually visiting every one of those. I did not manage to visit all but managed a few and can attest that whoever decided to miss them out completely missed out on knowledge and pure entertainment.

To end on another positive note, we can all say that we managed to sustain and prosper within our industry. We supported each other while being able to work remotely, which opened discussions around future workplace culture. 

We proved that we could adjust to the times and by working remotely. The combination of our modern tools and professional personnel showed us that they can be just as effective and productive as when working in an office building.

We have learned that conferences can be a knowledge source and entertainment without having to be physically there. However, we will have to work a bit more on the networking part.   

Finally, Safe Affiliate Programs launched at the beginning of the year with a solid group of companies that all had the same vision. Despite the issues that 2020 has thrown at them, they can close this year with the good news that their circle of friends is growing. 

Safe Affiliate Programs welcomes another friend. Affiliate Capital, a new affiliate program for the three well-established brands: Jackpot Capital, Grande Vegas and Slotastic is joining the mix. All programs at Safe Affiliate Programs support both affiliates and event organisers by continuing the path of ethical partnerships and broadening their combined reach. 

Safe Affiliate Programs are friends with shared benefits, and their affiliates can benefit too!

This article was authored by Ellen Learmonth (pictured above), who manages the affiliate program for Golden Euro Affiliates – a partner of Safe Affiliate Programs.

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