Season 01 / Episode 028

Search Marketing and Affiliates – My interview with Tony Pantano, CEO of IMWave

With Tony Pantano - CEO, IMWave

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One of my favorite things about the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast is that I get to sit down and talk with some of my favorite people in the industry, people I consider friends and have known for decades. Tony is one of those and he joins me today.

Tony Pantano is the CEO of IMWave. I’ve known Tony for over a decade and IMWave’s founder, Adeam Viener for two decades. Tony is a great guy, upstanding individual and the kinda civic leader that I wish I could say I was. Tony loves challenges, and we talk about one large one he’s taken on this year, that of School Board Member. The first few minutes we discuss his experience with the pandemic as a member of a school board in Pennsylvania. I think you’ll find the discussion enlightening. Great job Tony, and thank you for stepping up and stepping out to serve your community.

Then we dive into search and affiliate. Tony shares some big success stories and the difference between trademark plus and what IMWave does. Hint hint, they don’t do trademark plus search bidding.

If you are looking for a partner to augment your search budget, cooperatively help you and your search team drive new incremental sales through your affiliate channel, then you definitely want to listen.

We also talk about these misconceptions:

  • IMWave does trademark plus bidding
  • “My search program is hitting everything available”
  • You can’t have a search affiliate and a search term work together
  • A Search affiliate will cannibalize your current program
  • And more

If you want to reach out to Tony, you can email him at

In the intro I share about one of our services, Affiliate Program Strategy Roadmap. If you’d like to find out how you can leverage our decades of experience to create a strategy for growth in your affiliate program, check out our strategy development service.

About Our Guest


Tony Pantano


Tony leads the entire IMWave team as CEO.



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Trust quality affiliates in the search space. Tony discusses how search has gotten a bad reputation over the years. It’s very easy to jump into and do shady things. He mentions it’s hard for them to overcome when some people are nervous about bad actors in the space, and reiterates that IMWave has been in this business for over 15 years and they take it very seriously. Search teams and agencies may be resistant, but need to understand the search space is enormous and IMWave wants to supplement the efforts.

Tony reminds us that it is hard to know what type of advertiser is best for the service, and it is up to the advertiser to convert! He says the one guarantee he has seen over the last 15 years is that there isn’t a clear winner in this business. There are programs they have thought should have performed extremely well, but ultimately didn’t. There were some they ran as a favor and have taken off. It’s tough to gauge but it is important to remember their success across a vast array of verticals. No program or brand is the same. It’s up to advertisers to convert!


Tony discusses the leadership skills and principles he used to navigate the difficulties of the last year.

“Leadership is a funny thing. You can know how to lead, fundamentally and theoretically, but when it comes to action, putting those into practice always takes extra work. To be sure you are following your own guiding principles, in any arena in life. From a standpoint of leadership principles, going into this was a lot about listening and hearing what people’s concerns were… When emotions run deep, logic can slip away sometimes. Try to listen and address all sides.”

Tony has been with IMWave for almost 15 years. He explains the changes he has seen in the industry throughout his career and why has stayed.

It’s constantly changing. As much as it stays the same, it changes. I think back to how things were when we started vs. how they are today.. I like challenges, whether it’s personal or work or side projects. I like to find solutions to problems [which is why I’ve stayed in the industry]. Some of the challenges we have been presented with and the way we used to do things in 2006, I look back and think – how did we ever get anything done doing it that way? We have progressed so far.”


[15:25] – “Sometimes when you’re ahead, you don’t need to score that last touchdown.”

[30:28] – “The easiest way to think of IMWave is to think of us as a search agency that operates via the affiliate channel. We are a supplemental agency, we don’t look to replace anyone’s search efforts. We don’t look to replace what they are doing internally or via their search agency. We don’t do it on a percentage of ad spend, we do it 100% on performance.”

[39:39] – “Our best partnerships are ones where we can work collaboratively, where they can tell us what their specific goals are – are they looking for 15% growth this quarter? Are they looking to break into a new geography or product category? What are they really trying to accomplish and where is their focus? I actually want to be focused on where they don’t have search.”