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Affiliate Acquisitions Kick off Q1 2021

In the first few weeks of 2021, four major Affiliate industry acquisitions/partnerships were announced: TopCashback-owner TOPG acquired Swedish affiliate Refunder, Global Savings Group acquired Shoop Germany, Button announced a major collaboration with CJ Affiliate, and the Rakuten-owned Cartera subnetwork has partnered with Bumped, a startup loyalty app that rewards through stock options rather than cashback or points. While all are newsworthy and meaningful, it’s the Bumped/Cartera news that will most likely impact our clients’ performance and also sparks some debate and discussion.

Through the integration, Cartera will opt-in all live merchants to Bumped if they are ITP Compliant and Track on Mobile. The integration enables users an “entry point to investing” without a separate app, aka the opportunity to use their purchase rewards in the stock market. It’s a win-win for users, but it’s also advantageous for our clients. Why? The Cartera program (a huge program as it is, with major airline and credit card rewards programs in its network) can now be integrated seamlessly and without a setup fee. Integrating with Bumped through Cartera will reach a new audience of finance-savvy shoppers who are looking for great deals -- in many ways it is similar to the Capital One acquisition of Wikibuy in that respect. It’s a value add and an audience expansion opportunity.

But unlike Capital One and Wikibuy, the marriage of a finance giant and a huge affiliate publisher is an example of the conglomerate Rakuten integrating yet another affiliate publisher (although not explicitly acquiring). Ebates acquired Cartera in 2017, and Ebates, now Rakuten Rewards, was acquired before that by Rakuten in 2014, in one of the biggest plays in commerce this past decade. Bumped is one more publisher to be absorbed by Rakuten, where Rakuten is now both the third-party tracking network and the affiliate publisher itself. Rakuten’s strategy to expand across network technology and publishers has proved successful for them thus far. Still, it’s also created a bit of the elephant in the room in the industry. All roads now lead to... Rakuten?


Except that Rakuten isn’t the only network taking such an overt approach in the affiliate space. Button’s partnership with CJ Affiliate is another example of a major network integrating with a publisher powerhouse. Button’s partnership with CJ is aimed to optimize mobile traffic and fuel app installations seamlessly.

The fairness of this practice and whether there needs to be more regulation around these acquisitions is a hot topic in the affiliate world. Since there have been no regulations put in place thus far, it’s unlikely that the partnership land grab will cool down any time soon. Now that Pepperjam and Partnerize have joined forces in another big merger, it’s possible that such a play may also be in the cards for them as well.

We see the competition's concern and reasoning behind it. On a tactical level, advertisers may be forced to join multiple networks to work with all the partners that would benefit the program, which we are wary of for our clients. However, in the case of Bumped, it helps advertisers, as there is a one-stop-shopping ease for consumers and brands themselves. As we work with each network in an agency partnership model, we feel confident we can help our clients navigate this tightening competition and conglomeration territory.