In an official statement posted on the Google Affiliate Network (GAN) blog yesterday, the internet giant cited a desire to invest in cost-per-action channels other than affiliate marketing as the driving force behind the decision to wind down the platform.
Our blog looks back at the journey from DoubleClick to GAN, the game-changing promises made by the network and the demise that ultimately led to GAN’s closure.
Google’s affiliate network was launched in the US in 2008, following its acquisition of DoubleClick. It became home to some of the biggest brand names including Duracell, Moonpig and Skechers, and launched in the UK in April 2012.
The Google brand coupled with the sophisticated technology promised by the network made GAN an exciting addition to the affiliate landscape, and it was hoped that integration with other Google products would add significant value. For example, funnel tracking in Google Analytics seemed the perfect solution for multi-channel attribution and Circles and Hangouts in Google+ could have proven invaluable for communication within an already very sociable industry. In its infancy, it seemed failsafe.
So where did Google go wrong in dipping its toes into the world of affiliate marketing? It’s certainly a very competitive market, with Affiliate Window, Commission Junction and Webgains already accounting for a significant proportion of the market share. However, for Google and its promise of faster payments and a speedier interface these other players seemed to be a surmountable challenge.
In fact, it could be argued that Google went wrong when it lost affiliates’ trust.
In August 2012, it was fined $22.5million by the Federal Trade Commission for privacy offences. The DoubleClick cookies used by GAN to track affiliate sales were found to be overriding the safeguards built into Apple’s Safari browser, which meant that browser activity was logged illegitimately. Following the fine, Google failed to quickly come up with alternative means of tracking affiliate sales via Safari, and as result, affiliates were told that a portion of their sales would fail to track. Google offered “compensation for estimated conversion activity”, but perhaps it was at this point that affiliates decided to promote advertisers on other networks where they could be sure their earnings would reflect the actual sales they generated.
Nonetheless, our digital marketing team is surprised and disappointed to hear the news from GAN today. It will be interesting to see which networks Google’s clients turn to in light of this news, and if any of the networks will step up to add value where GAN failed.