EBay Takes Affiliate Program In-House

In a blow to ValueClick and its Commission Junction affiliate network, eBay has decided to manage its mammoth affiliate marketing program in-house. Will Martin-Gill, the program’s senior manager, said the decision is motivated by a desire to offer greater customization to its affiliate publishers while saving money and exerting more control over traffic quality.

“The more you can see your customers and how they’re reacting [to banner and search ads], the better you can target them and work with them,” said Martin-Gill.

Dave Osman, Commission Junction’s SVP of operations, said losing the eBay account didn’t come as a surprise, adding the financial ramifications have already been baked into the company’s financial guidance. Both companies said eBay will continue to rely on ValueClick for ad serving and custom projects through its Mediaplex division.

“We never like to use a customer, especially a long-term customer like eBay,” Osman said. “We’ve enjoyed a very fruitful relationship with them.”

The new program, called eBay Partner Network, will serve more than 100,000 individual affiliates globally. Publishers will be able to register beginning April 1, and they have been asked to migrate to it fully by May 1. The in-house migration includes the affiliate program for Half.com, the eBay-owned marketplace for used CDs, DVDs, books, and video games.

Martin-Gill said eBay expects to offer its affiliates new capabilities involving the ad format and landing pages. Publishers operating in multiple countries will be permitted to register and manage their accounts centrally.

Among the products eBay will launch with its new partner network is a geo-targeted banner ad. When the ad is served to a consumer in a foreign country, eBay will direct responding traffic to its site for that country. In testing, the format has resulted in a conversion rate four to five times higher than serving an ad specific only to the affiliate publisher’s site, said Martin-Gill.

“You multiply that across all the different countries we have, you have a pretty interesting lift,” he said.

Martin-Gill noted eBay at one time outsourced its paid search advertising, and he said the company decided to bring that in-house for the same reason: “We want closer control of data,” he said.

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