Creating a trade body for the affiliate sector

The compliance panel at last month’s AffiliateFEST event was one that stoked up a lot of interesting debate from panelists and audience members alike. One interesting talking point to emerge from it was that of creating an affiliate trade body or co-operative which would support it’s members with industry regulation, compliance and access to qualified legal expertise.

The conversation centred around whether there is a need, and if there is an appetite for affiliates to gather together, get connected and form a body that would help sustain their businesses as the industry continues to regulate, gain momentum and grow. The conversation posed a lot of questions around what this body would do, and how it might be formulated, funded and managed to ensure it’s members received sufficient support for their investment into it.

The question of how the body would be managed, run and regulated came under scrutiny as well. On the panel Nick Nocton and John Hagan two leading legal experts on regulation and compliance discussed these points at length and an excerpt of this conversation is summarised below.

Nick Nocton (Mishcon de Reya) , said : “There’s definitely a need and a space for one. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to others in relation to creating an affiliate body and they are still discussing. There is an inherent difficulty in getting a critical mass of people who all have exactly the same interests at heart, who can all agree on what the remit should be.

There is a very powerful argument to say that it should at least start with an agreed set of minimum standards, to drive improved practices, and to therefore engage and create a credible body to then have sensible conversations, for example with regulators.

It’s very difficult getting people to agree how much you’re going to be able to contribute and what you’re going to get for that money. One of the most valuable things that the trade body can provide is intelligence, advice, access to skills, which of course are things that the smaller affiliates are extremely interested in, but that will come at a price”

John Hagan (Harris Hagan) also commented , “Of course you should have trade associations, and it’s something that will come to fruition I’m sure sooner rather than later, but it comes back to my point made earlier about how this body would show it’s credibility with operators. Nick has mentioned credibility with the commission, and an opportunity to engage with the commission for the interests of affiliates but also to engage with operators. If you have a trade association with a minimum set of standards as a requirement to joining, you can distinguish the reputable, good affiliates from those that don’t buy into the same set of standards.”

Affiliates in the room were also asked by the panel moderator, Lee-Ann Johnstone to give a show of hands if a body such as this would be of use to them and the majority agreed that the idea of a body that provided support to affiliate businesses was a good one and most would elect to join it if it provided a real value and benefit to their business. It’s apparent that affiliates are open to the idea of gaining momentum to self regulate and are just as serious about continued compliance as operators have been.

Affiliate businesses are trying to find ways to provide self governance to improve the way they work, and support development and growth of this digital marketing channel. Whilst this isn’t an easy road to take, it will be a complex one, but time will help to drive this forward and we look forward to seeing what happens next.

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