Season 01 / Episode 022

Cary Pierce – The future of affiliate marketing, insight and tips for newcomers

With Cary Pierce - Manager Agency Services, Rakuten Advertising

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Today on our podcast, we have Cary Pierce, Manager of Agency Services at Rakuten Adverising. Cary brings a unique perspective to our conversations as he has worked at almost every different type of player in the affiliate game. From agency to network and everything in between.

Our conversation spans reactions to covid, changes in the industry this year to how to plan for Q1 when we know very little will be the same compared to Q1 last year.

Cary also gives some great advice for new publishers and advertisers that have come to the affiliate channel since the pandemic started:


  • Get as much info as you can
  • Have conversations – everyone is very helpful in this space and when you win everyone wins
  • Have as many conversations as you can
  • Reach out to your advertisers and work together to optimize your efforts
  • Know your audience
  • Share that knowledge with your advertisers


  • It’s really just one thing. You need a good and competent captain at the helm of your affiliate program. You can’t set it and forget it.

Get ahold of Cary at

Also, check out Rakuten Advertising’s Cyber Week Recap.

And don’t forget to get your 19 point guide (plus one extra tip) on how to survive and thrive in this current economic climate.

About Our Guest


Cary Pierce


Cary works with all the affiliate management agencies at Rakuten Advertising, helping them yield the best results for their clients in his affiliate network.




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Top Tips

Measuring performance against your brand’s vertical benchmark each quarter is extremely insightful. Cary discusses how he started comparing an advertiser to its own vertical across several KPIs. If you understand what an advertisers market position is supposed to be, it’s extremely insightful to understand how you are performing against that vertical’s benchmark. He mentions how it’s important to do this quarterly, for Cyber Week etc.

It’s important for advertisers to stay in constant communication with their affiliate management team during this time. Cary says that advertisers need to clearly communicate how affiliate is fitting in to their online marketing strategy. If there’s a change they are noticing, they need to let their affiliate management team know immediately – whether that’s in house, a contractor or an agency. He suggests briefing them with the same context you would brief your paid search team. To be flexible, you must give updates in real time.


Advertisers can’t rely on their typical Q1 strategy moving into 2021.

“There has been a drastic change (in the industry) from the effects of the pandemic. Understand that what you did in Q1 of last year is not going to help you enough. Advertisers should use what they did in Q1 2020 AND then consider results of Q2 and Q3. What was the instantaneous reaction to not being able to go into a store? We saw a massive surge of ecommerce conversions. How did that impact your vertical? Travl & event advertisers need a completely different strategy than health & fitness verticals.”

Rakuten’s “Hot List” is essential information for advertisers.

The Hot List is a list of 60-75 publishers that have had their first conversion in the network within a given time frame. We send the publisher ID, their website, a brief description and their e-mail address if you wish to contact them. We let you know how many orders they brought in during that specific time frame, as well as what vertical and sub-vertical they had conversions in. Once agencies get ahold of this list, they can use it as a recruiting tool to find publishers that fit their particular advertisers’ vertical.”


[14:50] – “I was basically doing this role before it was technically called ‘agency services’. Seeing what I could do by providing tools that a company didn’t even know were out there to lead them to successfully grow their business was something I was familiar with in a previous role with Lake County, Florida. I was coming up with strategies and implementing them, using the data and resources that were available. And that’s what I do now at Rakuten. We had these data sets and tools that an agency could use and the agencies didn’t even know they existed.”

[24:05] – “This is how I would advise brands that are affected by economic changes right now – I would have a yearly goal, quarterly strategy and implement plans on a week to week basis. The plan can change to accommodate my strategy to reach my goal for the year.”

[39:45] – “Last year, we saw a huge amount of affiliates joining the network. The interesting thing though was that they were not typical publishers like coupon, deal or loyalty. These were almost like an online presence labeled “general content.” There’s a huge number of publishers that have audiences that go to them for information, for entertainment or use them as a resource. These are the publishers who traditionally relied on advertising models. They hadn’t considered a performance model until now. They were generating content that produced traffic and they would go to an advertiser and sell space on their website. This has now changed tremendously.”