In three words that total only 9 letters, “I THINK NOT”.
As you probably know by now, Pepperjam recently started an affiliate marketing network. Read for yourself how CJ acted terribly unprofessionally (at best) and possibly very illegally in attempting to interfere with Pepperjam and their management clients. They waited for a day when they knew PJ management would be busy for their ambush.
Why don’t I think CJ should be trusted? CJ is always the first to do something that causes affiliates problems or stress and benefits CJ. Three letters… LMI. I have been in touch with an associate affiliate manager for a major CJ merchant recently who told me “CJ put so much pressure on us to try them (speaking of parasitic adware affiliates in a program that had never allowed them in) that we gave in and tried them.” This was a program that was a haven for value-add affiliates and it has all but dried up now and the only people making money there are couponers, trademark poachers and of course the parasites. CJ got involved in managing this program less than a year ago and has already taken it from being a program where affiliates could make money to now being a program where mostly CJ makes money while the number of incremental sales to this merchant have no doubt fallen dramatically.
They have also convinced merchants to make policy changes in their programs that clearly benefit their own affiliate marketing operation. I have been told this by a merchant as well. Special deals between merchants and CJ’s affiliate marketing efforts are being made inside the company. CJ has the data to know which programs convert the best and how affiliates are maximizing their volume in a given program. What a fantastic source of information with which to fuel your own affiliate marketing efforts…unless you are supposed to be….uhhhhh….a TRUSTED THIRD PARTY!!!
Let’s talk about tools for affiliates. Linkshare, Performics, Shareasale, Avantlink, Pepperjam Network and most other affiliate networks have tools that allow affiliates to do everything from manage datafeed subscriptions, create page templates and many other tools that make affiliate marketing easy and/or productive for affiliates. CJ does not even have a consolidated way of disseminating coupons to affiliates that I am aware of. Most coupons listed in their interface are lacking an expiration date. They have no tools and offer affiliates no reason to work with them. It’s almost like they just don’t give a rat’s ass about affiliates. You have to submit their AAQ to get merchant feeds removed or added. If you are lucky enough to have an account rep, the process is still pitifully slow and subject to misinterpretation because it involves someone at CJ communicating with another on your behalf. If CJ really wanted to offer affiliates some value, they would have fixed this system long ago. It has been brought to their attention on every level by myself and hundreds of others but they lend a deaf ear to such requests.
Getting back to their assault on Pepperjam, who has been a partner with CJ for many years, is CJ trying to bully PJ’s clients any different than their program managers influencing a merchant to behave in a way that benefits CJ’s affiliate marketing operation? Not really. It is that “blind hog at the trough” mindset. Do whatever you have to do to advance yourself even if that means acting in unethical, illegal and downright crooked ways to accomplish your goal. This is a pattern that CJ has replicated over and over and over again. They fired or allowed many of their best employees to quit when they made a big deal over not wanting employees to be affiliates because it is a conflict of interest. Not two years later they purchased affiliate sites and are now aggressive in their own affiliate marketing operation and leveraging their relationship with the merchants, a relationship that gained by acting as a “Trusted Third Party”, to unfairly compete with the affiliates who are responsible for their existence.
Every affiliate I talk to, every affiliate consulting client I have, every merchant I get to have a chat with all eventually ask me about my network preference. Immediately after that they ask about a negative network preference. While the jury is still out on my favorite network, CJ has landed the latter of the two categories by a huge margin over the past two years.
“So, Scott, Pepperjam is an affiliate too. Why don’t you mention that?” Good point. It is true. Pepperjam is an affiliate, a management firm and a network, as is CJ, LinkShare, Performics and others. There are countless affiliate management firms out there who are also aggressive affiliates. This seems to be the direction the industry is going. What we must now base our opinions on are tools, visibility, reputation and the ability to contact someone at a given network who A) gives a damn and B) will actually listen and make an earnest attempt to reach a resolution…or at least offer a candid explanation as to why they think the issue you raised does not warrant such. I can reach someone at PJN who at least appears to give a damn. All I can reach at CJ is an account rep who only replies to about half of my emails and if there is ever a sense that I am upset about something, intentionally ignores me.
Is Pepperjam perfect? NO! Do they meet my needs as a network better than CJ does? Absolutely! Will they some day pull the same crap that CJ has in pushing policy changes that benefit them and hurt other affiliates? Maybe, but until then I have to give them the benefit of the doubt.
I suggest you check out Pepperjam Network. For a network that is less than 3 months old, they have an impressive collection of merchants, tools and support resources!