Affiliate Terminated by Nameless "Affiliate Team"

A few days ago a friend of mine was terminated from an affiliate program of a Fortune 100 merchant which is run on an affiliate network, and managed by the network itself. I do not want to focus on the names here (no matter how much I wish to do so), as the focus should really be on the problem that we have registered.

Here’s the text of the first e-mail he got from them:

Dear [Affiliate’s Name]:

With reference to your participation in the [Merchant’s Name] Affiliate program through [Network’s Name].

From time to time we review sites participating in the program. We are sorry to advise you that due to low level of sales activity we are expiring your affiliation with the [Merchant’s Name] US and [Merchant’s Name] Canada program effective 4/31/09.

We thank you for your contribution and we wish you the best for your future endeavors.

Thank you,
[Merchant’s Name] Affiliate Team

They were right — he wasn’t sending them a large volume of sales — but what he was doing, though, was a passionate and aggressive promotion of this particular merchant’s product, and being upset about the above-quoted piece of correspondence, he replied to them:

Hi guys. Why? I push you guys on [Affiliate Website URL] and would really be a bummer if I left you out of my gadget reviews. Please reconsider as I am really into [Merchant’s Name] and this would really put a negative twist on [Merchant’s Name] for me.

Thank you

And the management “team” replied to him:

Thank you for your response.  At this time, [Merchant’s Name] has decided to reduce the size of the affiliate program to ensure that all publishers are complying with [Merchant’s Name] Affiliate Guidelines.

We would appreciate it if you could remove any [Merchant’s Name] banners or text links from your site.

If you have any further questions, please contact your [Affiliate Network’s Name] representative.

Thanks again for your support.  We wish you the best in the future.

The [Merchant’s Name] Affiliate Team

So, now we’re talking compliance with the merchant’s “affiliate guidelines”. Okay. . . I have carefully reviewed this merchant’s affiliate program terms and conditions (dated January 2009), and I cannot see one clause that would prescribe affiliates to meet a certain performance level to continue being in the program. Regarding affiliate termination the agreement says: “You should also note that if you are accepted to participate in the Program and your Site is thereafter determined (in our sole discretion) to be unsuitable based on the criteria above for the Program, we may terminate this Agreement” and the listed criteria are: (a) trademark infringement, (b) sexually explicit and/or hate/violent/offensive website content, (c) promotion of discrimination and/or illegal activities, (d) violation of intellectual property rights,  (e) lack of clear privacy policy, and (f) being “considered offensive or inappropriate at [Merchant’s Name] sole discretion.” Which one did he not comply with? The latter?

I seriously doubt that the merchant that entrusted the affiliate network with the management of their program, and promotion of their brand and products, even knows about this. If they do — shame on them.

It just saddens me greatly when I hear about things like these happening; especially when affiliates are terminated by affiliate networks that hide the actual names of people behind the nameless “Affiliate Team” signature. Not the way to do business (at least, not the affiliate marketing business)!!

8 thoughts on “Affiliate Terminated by Nameless "Affiliate Team"”

  1. I got the same email a few days ago from the merchant you are talking about. I was actually in the process of building a niche site that promoted just this one merchant’s products. it sucks even more because the merchant in question here is a brand who’s products many affiliates use and love, a brand some are really passionate about – being booted out of their program is kinda like being dumped by your girlfriend. heh.

    There are other merchants on the same network that sell the same products, but it’s just does not equal the experience of being able sending traffic directly to [the merchant]!

  2. Pranav,

    Reading your words and knowing that this merchant pays a 1% commission just makes me wonder if there are other brands out there with that devoted of an affiliate following (that would passionately work for such a small remuneration, and be sincerely saddened by being booted out). Very sad situation. Do you think the decision actually originated from the company (as the second program management’s e-mail infers), or is it more likely the affiliate network’s initiative?

  3. Agree with you 100%. Personally I don’t think any affiliate should ever be removed from a program unless they are doing something wrong (as in violating terms)

    In this particular case it is sheer and utter stupidity. This program had an affiliate who was obviously very devoted to the program wanting to promote them and giving them a lot of their time and effort to do so. They should be jumping up and down since that affiliate has plenty others they could choose to do that for but have chosen their program.

    Other than I guess being just plain ole gutless to put a name with an email like that, what do you think the reason is why some programs run by certain networks only have once in a while type correspondence with an affiliate through these nameless emails?

    What purpose does it serve anybody to have a contact for an affiliate program that the affiliate doesn’t know who it is. I realize they exist and have quite a few myself. I have never understood it, though.

  4. “In this particular case it is sheer and utter stupidity. This program had an affiliate who was obviously very devoted to the program wanting to promote them and giving them a lot of their time and effort to do so.” — Exactly, Kathy! To have such an affiliate on-board is a dream of every affiliate manager. Passionate about the brand/product, and capable of spreading the word effectively (trust me!)

    And this is one of the world’s top 100 brands, Kathy!

    To see a program like that being that mismanaged (by those who are supposed to know affiliate marketing inside out) just breaks my heart.

    As for those “nameless emails” I wrote about it a week ago in my Three R’s of Affiliate Program Management Success post (they are missing the third R altogether, which makes affiliates very upset too).

  5. I have had several instances of very zealous affiliates finding themselves at a point where they were not making any sales. However, they were amazingly dedicated and making extraordinary efforts to produce.

    You are right, these ARE every affiliate manager’s dream. The affiliate program and/or manager is there to assist that individual – not sever the relationship because they aren’t benefiting at the juncture in time.

    Well said.

  6. Yes, Ron, I fully resonate what you’re saying.

    But what could be the rationale behind such a decision? The “nameless ‘Affiliate Team'” is mentioning at least three things: (i) low level of sales activity, (ii) decision to “reduce the size of the affiliate program”, and (iii) compliance with the merchant’s “Affiliate Guidelines”. The last one is simply not true as the affiliate was 100% compliant. The first one makes very little sense, because they only pay for sales that do happen (and I personally see no way of how someone who sends a “low level of sales” can hurt the program), and the second thing just doesn’t make any sense to me.


    I’d especially love to hear the thoughts of those who have been affected by this.

  7. I am not very sure if the merchant’s marketing team was consulted before the “affiliate team” decided to give the boot to loyal affiliates, but if they were, I can also say that the “team” put across this “strategy” very strongly to the merchant’s marketers.

    ‘The affiliate team are the pros after all, what they say must be best for the affiliate program.’

    There have been many similar instances in the past where the “Affiliate team” has ‘strategically’ terminated affiliations that I have been a part of but not promoted enough. Many times, right after taking over the program’s management.

    These probably are MBAs fresh out of college that think of affiliates as employees – which is a really absurd thought to those who know the industry well.

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