Andd we’re finally back from Austin, TX, host city of the first ever Affiliate Summit Central. All in all, it was a pretty great time. I had been there since Wednesday of last week after flying in with a couple other NJ affiliates, Ian Fernando and Gabriel Cano. By the time Monday rolled around, we were ready to get back to business after taking the time to explore Austin and an impromptu trip to Houston (we grabbed a sweet electric blue stang to get up there). Here’s a run down of the show:
Monday was the Internet Marketing Party followed by the Affiliate Summit Pre-Party at Maggie Mae’s. The place got packed by the time all the Affiliate Summit guests arrived later in the evening and it was a great crowd. We had live music going and brisket and BBQ to go with it. The night continued until we unfortunately got hit with some more rain (and Austin never gets rain, we got it 3 times!), but that didn’t stop us from continuing the party.
Tuesday was the first official day of Affiliate Summit Central and was hosted at the downtown Hilton. This show was capped to 500 people and so was smaller than your typical East and West shows. I felt like this set up definitely created a kind of more personal atmosphere at the show and allowed me to really engage with people I might do business with. It didn’t feel as rushed as the other shows and there weren’t a bunch of people trying to approach you at the same time as soon as they saw “Affiliate” written on your pass. The Meet Market took center stage at the show, which was smaller this time around as well and there wasn’t an exhibit set up with giant booths like other Summits. I liked that there were tables set up in between the two rows of booths on either side because it allowed you to kind of sit down and grab a drink or bite to eat with others at the show or someone you met at the booth. It was definitely a more slow-paced, relaxed atmosphere. Call it southern hospitality if you will.
There was a good number of affiliates and networks that came out to the show as well such as NeverBlue, Ads4Dough, RevenueWire, RevenueAds, and Clickbooth as well as others. I also ran into a few more affiliates that I knew at the show. After checking out the Meet Market, I attended a few sessions – one on how to turn your customers into affiliates as well as AffPlaybook – Affiliate Strategies for 2012 in addition to a couple others. There was a wide variety of sessions, some for beginners and some for the advanced. I decided to attend a few that catered to advertisers because I wanted to know what they thought about affiliates and how they viewed their own businesses. Overall, there was a wide variety of topics covered in all the sessions, but I noticed they weren’t being recorded this time (at least from what I saw). I hope they were though because I know I wanted to attend other sessions that I couldn’t make at the same time as other ones.
After day one of the show, NeverBlue took me and Gabriel out to dinner at this awesome Italian restaurant right by the Hilton called Carmelo’s. The food was delicious and they even had a live accordionist. I got to talk a lot with NeverBlue about all the recent hype and smear in the affiliate world about bankruptcies and other networks closing down and we kind of had a heart to heart about what kind of stuff I had been hearing other affiliates say about NeverBlue’s position as a network as well as where they were headed as a company. I have to say that after talking with them, even though I was fairly positive to begin with, I have no doubt that they will be alright and even more than alright. They are still growing rapidly and profitably as well continuing to open offices internationally. They hooked me up with a little insider info about their restructuring and I have no qualms that they are safe to work with. NeverBlue did not get involved with a lot of the shady offers and advertisers that took down a lot of other networks and it’s precisely why they’re still around and profitable today. It goes to show that they have their head in the right place and are a network that’s not in it for the short haul.
Ted and the team from Engage BDR were also representing and they along with Ads4Dough hosted one of the Affiliate Summit after parties at Haven down in the warehouse district. The party got crowded pretty early on and it was a great open venue for people to mingle and people watch at the same time from the rooftop. Towards the end of the night a few people ended up bouncing to 6th Street and checking out the scene before calling it a night. I have some great footage of us taking a pedicab to find a burrito truck and back to our hotel lol.
We had our flight back changed on us to an earlier one so we unfortunately couldn’t make the show on Wednesday from 9am-12pm, so we were off to the airport after a good week in Austin. I would say Affiliate Summit Central was a great opportunity to network and build relationships because of it’s more laid back and personal atmosphere. There were a lot of advertisers present at the show and so I would say it’d be beneficial for any affiliates looking to work with both networks as well as directly with advertisers to come check out the show. I hope more affiliates have the opportunity to grab a pass for next year and along with that I hope the show grows into something consistent that all sides of the business are able to attend. I am not sure if the cap will be raised for the next show, but I hope it is so others can take advantage as well. For the first show in Austin, I think Shawn Collins and Missy Ward did an excellent job and I’m looking forward to it becoming a mainstay show.