Adware is still an issue today, but affiliate marketers have taken steps to fight it. AdWare is not the
same as spyware although both often use the same methods and technologies. Merchants usually had no clue
what adware was, what it did and how it was damaging their brand. Affiliate marketers became aware of
the issue much more quickly, especially because they noticed that adware often overwrites their tracking
cookie and results in a decline of commissions. Affiliates who do not use adware became enraged by
adware, which they felt was stealing hard earned commission from them. Adware usually has no valuable
purpose or provides any useful content to the often unaware user that has the adware running on his
computer. Affiliates discussed the issues in various affiliate forums and started to get organized. It
became obvious that the best way to cut off adware was by discouraging merchants from advertising via
adware. Merchants that did not care or even supported adware were made public by affiliates, which
damaged the merchants' reputations and also hurt the merchants' general affiliate marketing efforts.
Many affiliates simply "canned" the merchant or switched to a competitor's affiliate program.
Eventually, affiliate networks were also forced by merchants and affiliates to take a stand and ban
certain adware publishers from their network.
Resulting from this were the Code of Conduct by Commission Junction/BeFree and Performics,
LinkShare's Anti-Predatory Advertising Addendum and ShareASale's complete ban of software
applications as medium for affiliates to promote advertiser offers. Regardless of the progress made
is adware still an issue. This is demonstrated by the class action lawsuit against ValueClick and its
daughter company Commission Junction filed on April 20, 2007.
Trademark bidding / PPC
Affiliates were among the earliest adopters of pay-per-click advertising when the first PPC search
engines like Goto.com (which became later Overture.com, acquired by Yahoo! in 2003) emerged during the
end of the nineteen-nineties. Later in 2000 Google launched their PPC service AdWords which is
responsible for the wide spread use and acceptance of PPC as an advertising channel. More and more
merchants engaged in PPC advertising, either directly or via a search marketing agency and realized that
this space was already well occupied by their affiliates. Although this fact alone did create channel
conflicts and hot debate between advertisers and affiliates, was the biggest issue the bidding on
advertisers names, brands and trademarks by some affiliates. A larger number of advertisers started to
adjust their affiliate program terms to prohibit their affiliates from bidding on those type of
keywords. Some advertisers however did and still do embrace this behavior of their affiliates and allow
them, even encourage them, to bid an any term they like, including the advertisers trademarks.
Lack of self regulation
Affiliate marketing is driven by entrepreneurs who are working at the forefront of internet marketing.
Affiliates are the first to take advantage of new emerging trends and technologies where established
advertisers do not dare to be active. Affiliates take risks and "trial and error" is probably the best
way to describe how affiliate marketers are operating. This is also one of the reasons why most
affiliates fail and give up before they "make it" and become "super affiliates" who generate $10,000 and
more in commission (not sales) per month. This "frontier" life and the attitude that can be found in
such type of communities is probably the main reason, why the affiliate marketing industry is not able
to this day to self-regulate itself beyond individual contracts between advertiser and affiliate. The
10+ years history since the beginning of affiliate marketing is full of failed attempts to create an
industry organization or association of some kind that could be the initiator of regulations, standards
and guidelines for the industry. Some of the failed examples are the Affiliate Union and iAfma.
The only places where the different people from the industry, affiliates/publishers,
merchants/advertisers, networks and 3rd party vendors and service providers like outsources program
managers come together at one location are either online forums and industry trade shows. The forums are
free and even small affiliates can have a big voice at places like that, which is supported by the
anonymity that is provided by those platforms. Trade shows are not anonymous, but a large number, in
fact the greater number (quantitative) of affiliates is not able to attend those events for financial
reasons. Only performing affiliates can afford the often hefty price tags for the event passes or get it
sponsored by an advertisers they promote.
Because of the anonymity of forums, the only place where you are to get the majority (quantitative) of
people in the industry together, is it almost impossible to create any form of legally binding rule or
regulation that must be followed by everybody in the industry. Forums had only very few successes in
their role as representant of the majority in the affiliate marketing industry. The last example of
such a success was the halt of the "CJ LMI" ("Commission Junction Link Management Initiative") in
June/July 2006, when a single network tried to impose on their publishers/affiliates the use of
Lack of industry standards