Pay for performance only: Why Rakuten Advertising is taking on the risk for brands

The ‘Accelerate’ affiliate marketing program assumes the financial risk of testing new publishers, meaning advertisers are guaranteed to only pay for results.

As walled-garden tracking cookies are phased out, brands are demanding more measurable value from their campaigns than ever before. As a result, Rakuten Advertising's latest move reflects a wider trend in the industry where  agencies are becoming more competitive for ad dollars.

This is a shift from the traditional affiliate model that included tracking and service fees and publisher commissions, and other agencies are following suit. 

As ads become more accountable and AI-powered matchmaking gets more data to work with, it's telling that agencies feel confident enough to take on the upfront investments in ad placements themselves.

Putting trust in AI matchmaking 

The ‘Accelerate’ tool taps into Rakuten Advertising's network of 150,000 publishers in North America, EMEA, APAC and LATAM. All campaigns will have a dedicated data analyst while AI matchmaking identifies the best partners from Rakuten Advertising's network of 150,000 global publishers that wouldn't be obvious via human matchmaking.

Brands pay exclusively for performance via a fixed percentage of revenue, while Rakuten Advertising takes on the risks of up-front publisher investments. 

Jeff Wender, chief revenue officer, Rakuten Advertising, says: "By empowering our analysts and account teams to make strategic decisions about campaign investments, we can identify beneficial untapped publisher partnerships, establish optimised commission rates, and capitalise on even short-window opportunities to drive profits for advertisers. Accelerate has been well received by clients, and has exceeded our most optimistic expectations for performance and cost efficiency."

What the advertisers are saying

Rakuten says that test partners have already seen ‘notable results’. One example is Australian retailer Cotton On, which engaged Accelerate to expand its 10-year foothold in the United States, customising the program to drive awareness, promote priority product lines, convert new customers and generate more sales.

Brendan Sweeney, general manager of e-commerce at Cotton On, says: "We had reached the right moment to aggressively expand in the U.S. and sought a partnership that would deliver the experience and expertise we needed to reach and influence consumers in the market. 

"Accelerate instantly gave us the strategic support, historical data and analytic expertise we needed to design an affiliate program that could effectively expand our U.S. business. As a result, our U.S. affiliate marketing sales have grown significantly year-over-year. “