Performance Marketing Alliance (PMA) Q&A at Affiliate Summit East 2008

I walked out the Performance Marketing Alliance (PMA) Q&A session at Affiliate Summit East 2008 in Boston, MA just a few hours ago, full of frustration and a bit of anger. I had to calm myself down first before I started writing this post. The subject is important and emotional for most of us, but emotions will not solve our problems and only make it harder to come to agreements and finding solutions that benefit every single one of us.

PMA and the New York State Law Issue

I realized that many people who attended the Q&A had no idea what the PMA is and does and what it is not and cannot do. There was a lady from New York who is actively involved in organizing affiliates to work against the recent legislation that had dramatic impact on the business (and life) of affiliates from New York state in a negative way. She asked why the PMA did not reach out to them, but uses the incident as a reason for the formation of the PMA.

The PMA is not…

Let me be straight and blunt. The PMA is not able to help the New York affiliates. There is no entity in this industry that is able to help them. The PMA is not an entity at all. The PMA is NOT an organization and has no voice about anything but creating the foundation for an organization for the affiliate marketing industry that needs to be founded (whatever the name of that organization might be).

This does not mean that anybody who is voluntarily involved with the PMA and the formation of an organization is not involved or not supporting the New York issue. Some individuals are more involved than others, including individuals who could care less about this specific issue, such as marketers from California who are not affected (this time) by this. The state of California already stated that it will not follow the New York State example. However, every single supporter and active participant of the PMA put their mouth where their time (=money) is. They sacrifice time they do not have for an effort which intention it is to help everybody in affiliate marketing, including them but not exclusively.

Using a Metaphor to Illustrate

I am not an American and you (should) know your own country’s history better than I do. The PMA could be compared to the founding fathers that drafted the U.S. constitution, which became the foundation for the establishment of the bicameral system that was to govern the country to be known as the United States of America. We are just past the step of declaring independence and demanding the recognition as an industry with its own rights. The constitution is not drafted yet, only the committees at the constitutional convention were just formed.

The New York incident might be the affiliate industries “Stamp Act“, which lead to the Boston Tea Party and everything that happened after that. I am not aware that all or any of the Founding Fathers participated in the Boston Tea Party. Also, not everybody involved in the Declaration of Independence was involved in the creation of the U.S. Constitution and the specification of the structure of the United States Government. The Unites States of America was unable to act against the Stamp Act, because the United States of America did not exist yet at that time. The New York affiliates are left alone to have their very own Boston Tea Party.

Them versus Us

Like during the past attempts to found an industry organization, folks from the industry started to refer to the volunteers who commit their time (they do not have) for the effort in third person. “Them versus us (or me)” and references to the yet-to-be-found organization as “your organization” were made.

“Them” are people in your industry who are not only talk, bitch and yell, complain and whine, but sacrifice time, money and energy in creating something for them and for you… for us, affiliate marketers. They do not and do not want to own that organization, because what good is an organization that only represents them and nobody else, like you and me, who are also part of the same industry? How representative would be such an organization and why should anybody outside the industry recognize the opinion expressed by such organization as the opinion of the affiliate marketing industry as a whole?

Putting your Money where your Mouth is

Everybody who is complaining about the PMA is invited to participate, provide feedback, suggestions and sacrifice his or her time to make sure that the result of the PMA will be an affiliate marketing association that will be truly representative of this industry. Anybody who refuses to make this sacrifice will not be in the position to complain about the results and how the organization will look like, because you refused to take part in the process and control its destiny. I hate people who come and take advantage of things that were created by the community and complain about it, but refused to contribute a minute or a single penny for those things when they were created and the community asked for help and support and to participate directly in the efforts to make it as good as it possibly can be.

Wrong Signals

I was disappointed to see Haiko de Poel Jr. from ABestWeb leave the Q&A early before clarifications could be made to explain the idea and goals behind the PMA.

It sends the wrong signal to people in this industry. It signals to hardcore ABW members that the PMA efforts should not be supported and to supporters of the PMA that ABW is not interested in the formation of a representative body for the affiliate marketing industry. I know Haiko well enough to believe that this is not true and that he is interested as I am myself and many others to have an organization to represent the industry one day. Problems will not be solved if influential players in the industry ignore or boycott any efforts that are made to come to some consensus that will be acceptable by all relevant groups of individuals and businesses in the affiliate marketing industry. This includes affiliates, merchants, networks, third party service providers and third party vendors as well.

I hope that Haiko will reconsider and re-join the discussion and efforts made by others. Haiko, nobody who is part of the PMA is against ABW and who it represents. The PMA needs you and if you seriously think about it, then you probably realize that you need the PMA as well, like the rest of us.

Final Notes

It is sad to see that an industry where trust is an important part of the business itself is so filled with mistrust among the people. What is even sadder than that is the fact that this mistrust is not entirely irrational and based on real-life experiences made in the past.

People suspect hidden agendas and conspiracies behind any actions and activities regardless of who it is and what the stated goals might be. Anik Singal from Affiliate Classroom sponsored the salary for Rebecca Madigan that she will be able to work full-time on the administration of an organized attempt to form an affiliate marketing association. This raised suspicions of course.

Rebecca stated that she does not plan to make herself available to become elected into the leadership of the future affiliate marketing organization and that her job ends when the organization was established. I recommend putting this statement in writing and to overcome the urge and encouragement of PMA supporters for making yourself available to the Organization. I know that it would be a great sacrifice, but it would refute any statements that claim to know about a secret agenda behind your work for the PMA.

Putting my Money where my Mouth is

To demonstrate that I am including myself when it comes to showing people that I am putting my money where my mouth is, some facts that you might not know about me.

  1. I was trying to trigger the formation of an affiliate marketing organization myself in fall 2006, where I spent a lot of time and resources on to support it and to get it off the ground. It failed for several reasons. You can see relevant blog posts of mine to this subject here, here and here at
  2. I provided ideas and suggestions to Rebecca Madigan, who I contacted myself directly, after I heard about the launch of this initiative called PMA. I volunteered for the advisory board and made myself available for election into the board. I was not elected, but that does not mean that I will not continue to spend time that I do not have on working out details and overcome problems during the formation process of an affiliate marketing organization.
  3. I offered the donation of 11 domains for the use by the PMA and a future affiliate marketing organization. The lack of existence of any legal entity that represents this new organization, the actual donation could not be made yet, but my offer remains and I repeat this offer again here in public. The offered domain names are:
  4. There will be working groups that will work on the drafting of much needed standards for the industry. Due to my long personal experience with affiliate products data feeds, I am going to become actively involved in such working group, directly, if I will be accepted as official member, or indirectly via comments and suggestions, if I am not accepted.

Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?

Do not tell me, show me!

Carsten Cumbrowski

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski

5 Responses to Performance Marketing Alliance (PMA) Q&A at Affiliate Summit East 2008

  1. Affiliate Summit East 2008 – Day 2 Highlights…

    The PMA has posted a Summit Update about the organizational meetings they’ve had at the event and shared some thoughts on the PMA Q & A session that got pretty heated. Overall they sound very pleased ……

  2. Affiliate Summit East 2008 – Pictures, Videos, Highlights Part 2…

    Frustrations from the PMA QA session. Updates from the PMA. Chocolate fountain shooter – FAIL at the Shareasale party

  3. Carsten,

    Thank you for the great post, and the salient analogy to the founding of the United States. I hope it doesn't get as bloody to found the PMA!

    I just want to clarify two points.

    1) While it appeared that the PMA Q&A session got quite heated, there were really only a couple of people that seemed angry and stirred up the room. The response to those angry people has been an outpouring of support to what we're trying to do…which is simply form. We have over 50 active volunteers helping with the formation efforts, and they came to the Q&A session to show and express their support. That is an amazing testament to the amount of interest that people have in the PMA.

    2) While I did state that I won't be applying for a professional staff job at the PMA (when it becomes available), I just want to let everyone know that I plan on remaining a very active member of the PMA when it is formed, and I will continue in my existing role of organizer until the PMA becomes official and a professional manager takes over.

    In terms of validating the PMA at Affiliate Summit, I couldn't be happier – it is really clear to me now that there is an overwhelming amount of interest in raising the visibility and credibility of performance marketing, and that the time is right to come together as industry professionals.

    Thanks again Carsten,


  4. Great review Carsten. I appreciate that you took some time to really go at this from a fair standpoint and did not let your anger get in the way.

    I also attended that session and was ready to come downstairs and write a diatribe myself, but thought better of it and have yet to write anything about it. I may never, I'm not sure.

    But it's a fair point that if someone has a problem with it – get involved and help them fix the problems you clearly see.

  5. […] is for example the movement in the affiliate marketing called Performance Marketing Alliance (short PMA) that attempts the formation of some sort of […]