In this episode of Actionable Insights, Kerry Curran welcomes Heather James, the Event Director for Affiliate Summit, the world’s largest event for the affiliate marketing industry. As Affiliate Summit West 2024 approaches, Heather shares insights into the history of the summit, its evolution, and highlights what attendees can expect from the upcoming event.
From the Meet Market to new content tracks focusing on advanced affiliate management, influencer marketing, brand-to-brand partnerships, and more, Heather provides a comprehensive preview. Additionally, she offers tips on maximizing the Affiliate Summit experience, details on the event app, and shares exciting social activities.
Whether you’re a seasoned attendee or a newcomer, this episode provides valuable information and a discount code (GEN320) for listeners interested in joining Affiliate Summit West 2024.
- Gen3 Subscribers use code GEN320 to receive 20% discount at the ASW Checkout
Welcome back to our latest episode of Actionable Insights.
Gen3’s podcast on actionable learnings that you can apply to your brand advertising campaign.
Today we’re gonna talk about ‘The Event of Events’ An Enhanced Up-Leveled Experience for Enterprise Brands at the World’s Largest Performance Marketing Conference, Affiliate Summit West.
So welcome, Heather, to the Actionable Insights podcast. We’d love for you to introduce yourself and tell us a bit why anyone should listen to you today?
Hi Kerry, well first of thanks so much for having me on and it’s great to be here.
So, my name is Heather James. I’m the event director for Affiliate Summit, which is the biggest event in the world for the affiliate marketing industry, for those of you who are listening and haven’t heard of it.
A bit about me, my background is mainly in events, not affiliate marketing itself, though I have been known to dabble in content marketing. I’ve worked across a number of industries, working on big exhibitions and smaller conferences, including tech, telco, product marketing, SaaS, supply chain, and more.
Why should people listen to me? It’s a great question. I’m part of the team, a fantastic team, kind of working on and developing and evolving the biggest, like I said, it is the biggest event in the world for the affiliate marketing industry.
Across the team, we’re super well connected and there’s kind of years and years of experience of the team within the team working within this industry.
So yeah, that’s a little bit about me and why you should maybe listen to me and the work my team does.
No, we’re definitely excited for Affiliate Summit West. How do you explain what you do to people outside of the industry?
Yeah, so trying to explain to my friend’s what affiliate marketing is, it’s actually not been too difficult because there’s lots of everyday examples I can use. When I say, when I start to break it down… it’s a third party promotes the product or a service, I see eyes glaze over.
But when I’m like, booking.com or when you… go on a price comparison site and they’re like, oh yeah, you know that money still goes, it goes, just the revenue kind of gets distributed a little bit differently between the actual seller and the site and then they start to understand.
A lot of my friends still, when I say I’m getting nervous or stressed in the run up to an event, still get, are there gonna be enough chairs? And think that’s my biggest stress and pain though, so they don’t always get what I do or what industry I’m in.
I mean chairs are important, but…
One of our favorite icebreakers here is to ask, if you were to create a sandwich, what would it be and where would you distribute or sell it?
Yeah, I love this question. I’d love listening to other people’s answers on this podcast. I had a few kind of… being a person that eats a lot and loves food, had a few thoughts, but actually what I kind of settled on was like peanut butter is probably my biggest passion outside of events.
I love peanut butter and it’s always been a low key dream of mine to open a peanut butter emporium where every food includes peanut butter and is laced with peanut butter and they’re savory and they’re sweet.
So, I would create, it’s really simple, just a peanut butter and banana sandwich, no jelly, I’m a simple girl. I would, because it’s my favorite, flavor combination in the whole world.
It’s a bit sweet, it’s crunchy, a little bit salty, just like me. So, that is my sandwich, and I will sell it in my peanut butter emporium which will hopefully open one day.
And that is amazing.
I think that is up there with one of my favorite answers.
Tell us a bit about the history of the Affiliate Summit and especially Affiliate Summit West being the biggest.
Yeah, of course.
So, I’m going to say it again. I feel like I don’t want to keep saying it’s the biggest in the world, but it is the biggest event in the world for the industry. I promise that will be the last or at least the penultimate time I say it.
And as of today, it brings together six and a half thousand attendees from across the whole ecosystem. That’s kind of affiliates and publishers, advertisers, networks, agencies.
But the event’s been going a long time. It was founded, I think, around 20 years ago by Shawn Collins and Missy Ward. What was initially a small, the first one was launched I believe it was in New York and initially it was a meeting of around 200 people really to bring together the affiliates and the advertisers and over the course of the last 20 years it’s really evolved and while the event’s core is still okay, we want to bring together the different sides of the ecosystem it’s now grown too the kind of the size that we see it is today as we all know the industry has evolved a lot.
The range of advertisers using affiliate marketing has changed, increased the types of publishers and advertisers, increased exponentially.
So, the event itself has really evolved to meet the needs and the changes within the market.
Affiliate Summit West is almost like an event of two parts. Part of the event that was founded, I think in 2000, yes, it was. I did a bit of history research on the event. In 2006, Shaun and Missy launched something called the Meet Market, at one of the early affiliate summits in Florida.
The idea was really because there were smaller organizations, whether they be advertisers, affiliates, who wanted to have a footprint and a physical presence at the event, but couldn’t necessarily, didn’t have the budget, didn’t have the manpower or the resource to be able to participate in the main exhibition.
They created the meet market to kind of democratize the exhibition. Everyone has the same size table, the same amount of branding that they’re allowed.
And it kind of feels like a shrunk down trade show, almost like a job fair meets an exhibit hall. Like no frills, just a table. That part of the show is still in effect as it continues to grow. As has the exhibition.
So, now it’s almost an event of two parts. We open on day one on January 15th, where we have the meet market… the kind of the shrunk down trade show. It’s kind of a bit like… speed dating for the affiliate marketing industry.
And while its origins were for companies that didn’t have the resource or the manpower to be able to be part of the bigger exhibit hall, we now actually see a lot of crossover with companies who want to be part of both and have their kind of physical presence at both.
That is day one, that is the meet market. You get six hours to kind of stop the aisles and meet as many different organizations as you can. And then that closes down after day one and then days two and three we go into the exhibition.
So, it changes slightly and that’s what happens. That’s what takes place for the rest of the event. And we have content taking place across the three days.
So, lots of reasons for people to attend. Sounds like a lot of valuable content.
So, tell us a bit of what’s new for 2024.
So, we’re always looking to evolve the show to meet both the needs of the industry, but also, our community and people that have been long time attendees of the show.
So, in terms of kind of the physical show and in terms of logistics, we got some feedback last year, because it was our first year ever in Caesars Forum. And we’ve made a couple of changes just to make it a little bit easier to navigate, reduce walking time between areas and just improve the amount of meeting space.
So yeah, we’ve shifted things around a little bit and for those of you who came last year and come again this year, you’ll be able to see the changes in the floor plan.
We have increased the amount of meeting space at the event, both reserved, bookable and kind of ad hoc. We’ve added in more options for coffee and food, so it’s easier to keep yourself fed and nourished while at the event.
We’ve also added in new content tracks and themes to, like I said, represent kind of how the industry is shifting and changing.
And also, because we’ve started to see an increasing number of bigger brands and enterprise brands at the event. So, we wanna make sure that we’re delivering content and opportunities for them, as well as our kind of core audience.
We’ve got new content tracks for this year, including advanced affiliate management, which is really for affiliate managers at brands and how they can optimize the channel.
We’ve got influencer track, which is really looking at the convergence of influencer and affiliate and how can brands leverage that and how can they leverage the… Influencer channel through the affiliate model to drive results.
We’ve got a track looking at brand to brand. So, how can brands partner with each other to cross promote non-competing products through the affiliate model.
We’ve got a new track looking at lead generation, and that’s really for industries in particular who really kind of need high volume of leads and how to convert those.
Not new, but we’ve got the Content and Commerce Summit was launched last year and that’s grown a lot for this year. We’ve got two full days of content on that and the kind of footprint of that area of the show has grown a lot as well.
Those are the kind of highlight new elements of the show. As well as all the standard good old, I don’t use the word old, but stuff that you would expect to see and experience at Affiliate Summit.
In our previous conversations, you’re talking about how you’ve really, you and the team have worked hard to really up-level the quality of the content, especially for more, make it more relevant for the enterprise brands.
Do you want to talk a bit more about the commerce and content track and what you’re doing to make it more valuable for the larger brands.
So, as mentioned, we have these content tracks that we’re really trying to dive into some of the needs, pains and gains that affiliate managers at these bigger organizations have.
So, the content and commerce track is actually really targeted at mass media publishers as well, how they can work with advertisers to drive revenues on both sides.
We’ve actually got a specific lounge called the Gold Lounge, which is just for enterprise brands and mass media publishers.
So, they’ve got a special ‘safe’ place to be able to host meetings with either each other or bringing guests. As I was of mentioning previously, in terms of the other content tracks…
So, the advanced affiliate management track, we’ve got, it’s really for… affiliate managers at brands who want to optimize the channel and also, kind of get more investment.
I think all of us know that the affiliate channel is one that works, but lots of organizations, especially bigger organizations, are still a bit hesitant to really put a lot behind the channel.
So, we want to kind of give these affiliate managers the information they need to be able to go back to their organizations and get more budget and backing for the channel.
That particular track is going to look at that, but also kind of diversifying, partnerships and publisher types, mastering tracking. I think tracking is something that is hot on pretty much all our attendees’ minds in one way or another. Tackling fraud, optimizing relationships.
We also, like I said, have the influencer track. And this is an interesting one because we actually, on the third day, so January 17th, we are hosting Creator Economy Live, which is a sister event of Affiliate Summit.
It really focuses on influencer marketing and specifically influencer marketing for brands. Influencer marketing not specifically through the affiliate model.
So, while we do have like a whole day of… of influencer content taking place on January 17th, next door. It’s actually not specifically talking about it through the affiliate model.
So, we wanted to put some content on Affiliate Summit West to really showcase, okay, well, that’s… you can go next door and you can learn how it can work through lots of different models and flat fees and pay for posts, but actually within this part of the industry, how can you leverage influencer marketing? How can you create those relationships and drive results?
The brand to brand track is, again like I said, it’s new for this year. This is a really interesting one because we’ve got kind of a panel of experts talking about how to create and optimize partnerships, but then we’ve got a couple of case studies from brands as well talking about how they’re doing it, how they’re working with one another, how do you identify like non-competing products that are going to help boost your sales.
So, yeah, the content tracks, as well as that dedicated space for advertisers, bigger advertisers, to meet with mass media publishers, as well as other potential contacts, is really what we’re doing to provide more for our brand audience.
No, that’s definitely lots of really valuable and informational content, definitely for brands and publishers.
Sounds like there’s a lot to learn and a lot to walk away with that can be incorporated.
Now, I know we’re most excited for our panel on performance PR and working with brands and mass media, but tell me, what do you think other people are most excited for?
And this is a really good question.
I was thinking about it earlier on because we have so many different audience types and demographics and organization types at the event, it’s kind of hard to pin down one thing. I’d say holistically it’s the event of the year for the industry and just having a chance to… do deals, plan your year ahead, secure your partnerships right at the start in January in Vegas. Is pretty great.
I think a lot of people are just excited for the event, that the fact the event is happening itself and we’ve got all the exciting stuff we’ve got taking place. We’ve got all of the new content tracks we’ve got the AM days workshops that take place on day one.
There’s the meet market the exhibition and happy hours. Plus, all of the satellite events that we’re not involved with that take place surrounding the summit.
So, it’s hard to really pin down one thing. I’d probably say maybe one of the social events just because that includes everyone. We’ve got a great networking party taking place at the Brooklyn Bowl on the 17th.
I’d say that was a good opportunity to do business with a little competition on the side as well.
Excellent, that sounds like a lot of fun.
So, I know you said there’s been a lot of questions coming into the website.
Are there any trends for the frequently asked questions that we could get ahead of and answer for people now?
So, lots of people want to know like when the app will be ready and when they can download that. That will be available to download from December 18th.
So, people will be able to download, start to check out the guest list, pre-arrange meetings. We also get a lot of questions on how, so affiliates attend for free…and there’s an approval process. We get a lot of question on how quickly will the affiliate pass be approved?
It’s normally we say up to five days, usually quicker, but we like to kind of give ourselves a bit of a buffer just in case there’s a weekend or, or a holiday.
People often ask when is the meet market open? Meet market is open day one, January 15th. That’s the Monday. It is open from midday until 6pm. But because we got a lot of feedback last year that meeting spaces weren’t open for long enough on that first day, meeting spaces are open from 9am.
So, you can come down to the venue, start to meet, make connections, do deals, head to the VIP lounge. That will all be open from 9pm but then the… the meet market itself does not open until midday.
Content also starts at 11am on all days. I’d say most of the questions we get are about timings.
I would say those are the main one. The biggest question we get is the app because people are just so keen to get a head start on meetings.
Excellent. Well, thank you.
And I know we’ll post the website here for people who have more questions and that want to register.
So, tell us, what do you have available for people who can’t make it to Vegas in January?
Yeah, so we host the Affiliate Summer East, the East Coast edition, which takes place at the end of July.
So, for anyone that can’t make it to Vegas, that’s another great opportunity to connect with the industry. It’s slightly smaller, close to 4,000 attendees, but it’s still a very decent sized show. The event is slightly different in that there’s no exhibition, that is two days of meet market, plus we have the content and commerce zone, but we don’t have the exhibition in the same way.
We have slightly different context tracks due to the audience makeup and the venue. For those who are really keen to hear the content from West but can’t make it, we do sell the recordings on our website for $100.
So, you can purchase those after the event, or you can purchase it now, but you can receive those after the event. So, if you don’t want to miss out, I definitely recommend purchasing the recordings.
And so, Heather. We have one last question for the audience. Now, what is your recommendation for attendees to get the most out of their experience?
Yeah, it’s a great question.
I would say number one is use the event app. We’ve put a lot of time into making the app as easy to use and functional as possible so that people can pre-arrange meetings, see who is attending.
It’s actually a really, having worked in events for a long time, having worked in many event apps, it’s actually a very good one for being able to see who’s there, filter the audience, and really specifically find, before you’re even at the event, who you want to meet with and make connections with them, either whether you connect with them directly through the app or find them on LinkedIn. But it’s a really great way to get a good head start.
I know that many people attending the event have lots of industry connections that they already know, lots of people are going already with, yeah, lots of familiar faces, but for people who are new, or you particularly want to meet new people, I would say utilizing the app is a really great tool.
For people who are like brand new to the event, we get a lot of like repeat attendees, but for those who have never been before, Affiliate Summit can actually be overwhelming So, we host a newcomer session on the first day around 10am, one of the team, it will probably be me, will kind of walk anyone who’s new through the event, through the floor plan, through kind of what’s taking place on each day and again how to make the most of the event experience.
But I’d say outside of… obviously, I’m going to say go to all of the content and take advantage of all of the opportunities, but outside of meetings and content, we do have fun stuff going on as well which I think is in a way sometimes the best way to make new connections.
So, I’d say we have meetups taking place across the three days for different verticals and job roles.
So, if you’re in fintech or if you’re a media buying affiliate, or we’ve got about 10 or so taking place across the three days there’s likely to be a meetup that suits either your job role or your industry.
So, it’s a great way to just go and informally meet people who are… and go and meet your peers.
We also host, for those who are a bit active, we host a running club before the event starts each day to give people a chance to get an early start on networking and to get their steps in before, well, steps outside in because everyone does a lot of steps inside the exhibition center. Fresh, if you can call the air in Vegas fresh, fresh-Ish air.
And then, yeah, like I said, we’ve got the partnership party taking place on January 16th at the Brooklyn Bowl, which is just another great opportunity to meet peers and affiliate friends in an informal setting.
So, those would be my main recommendations is download the app, come to the newcomer session if you’re new and take advantage of all of the extracurricular stuff that we’ve got going on.
Thank you, Heather.
And you have been gracious enough to give us a discount code to share with our network.
So, thank you so much, Heather. We’re really excited to see you in Vegas. We look forward to seeing all of the great valuable content and of course all the fun social activities as well.
So, thank you so much. We’ll see you soon.
Thanks so much for having me on Kerry and we look forward to having Gen3 there with us at the event in seven short weeks or less by the time this airs.
Thank you so much.