If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that being versatile is important when it comes to succeeding as a digital marketer.

That extends to compliance teams who must ensure financial advertisers’ affiliate marketing risks are mitigated and that publishers are adhering to all federal regulations and client risk tolerances.

We caught up with Rakuten Advertising Senior Manager of Compliance Thomas Royer to find out more about how compliance has evolved since the start of 2020.

How has your team’s job changed since the pandemic started, and what are you doing differently?

Naturally, each financial issuer took a risk-based approach to mitigate their losses and overall risk and exposure. Our compliance audits have switched to being more event based instead of time based. Advertisers are constantly changing offers and moving offers in and out of the affiliate space, so that’s increased our overall ad hoc audits to ensure publishers are staying compliant. 

What are the biggest compliance challenges facing financial advertisers these days?

Regulatory oversight continues to increase, and overall user experiences are tracked much closer. UDAAP (Unfair, Deceptive, or Abusive Acts or Practices) complaints continue to increase and regulators are watching financial institutions and their marketing much closer.

We mitigate risk for our clients by staying up to date on regulatory changes as well as provide feedback on best practices we are seeing across the whole affiliate network. We are regulatory compliance experts and allow the issuers to make whatever changes necessary and be comfortable they are still compliant.

What are the biggest compliance issues facing publishers these days, and how are we addressing those issues?

Publishers have taken a hit in 2020, naturally. They are operating with smaller staff and with an increase in product changes due to evolving shopper wants and needs.

Overall, the number of products available is down. This means that publishers have had to get creative to drive traffic to their sites by creating more editorial articles that cover a wider range of topics.

With more product placements, there is a greater chance of finding an error. We have to keep in constant communication and also have a solid process in place to make sure communication lines are clear and expectations are being met.

How have advertisers and publishers had to get creative over the past five months when it comes to mitigating risk?

One of the first things advertisers have done was to risk rate each card. Financially, they limited the cards in the affiliate space that have the highest default rates. Advertisers and publishers had to be very dialed into the market and have the ability to make quick changes on the fly. Without a compliance program they trusted, it wouldn’t be possible.

What are 2-3 tips advertisers (or publishers) can implement to stay in compliance?

  • Have a process in place to review material and find any issues prior to going live.
  • Advertisers need to be very clear on what creative they want in the live networks and must work closely with their client services team to optimize their program.

How are the lessons that we’ve learned throughout this year going to carry over into 2021 and beyond?

We have always felt like we were a flexible team with the ability to create a compliance program that fits each advertiser specifically and that will continue into 2021. Our best practices have been refined and are in place for clients in the U.S. and abroad. Overall, we have a successful program in place that we continue to build off of to provide top notch service.

Speaking of advertisers outside of the US, we are seeing more financial services advertisers in Canada invest in affiliate programs. Why do you think that is?

Affiliate is one of the few marketing channels for an issuer where you can “spend $1 get $X” so it’s one of the last budgets to get cut and one of the first to come back. Affiliate offers a better return on investment than other digital channels and tends to be more cost-effective in the long run.

What kinds of opportunities exist in affiliate in Canada?

Personal loans are where we are seeing the most appetite for growth. Personal banking and mortgages are areas that are growing as well. 

How does compliance differ in Canada from the United States?

There are 3 main areas we see the biggest difference:

  • More involvement from the issuers internal legal and compliance teams, particularly with editorial content.
  • Different regulations within Canada for offers being presented in Quebec and outside for the rest of Canada (ROC).
  • Content being promoted in different languages, including French and Chinese.

 What trends are you noticing in Canada as it relates to compliance?

Along the lines of internal legal and compliance teams, we are seeing longer processes to get new publishers launched. Also, with publisher editorial content, we are seeing Canadian issuers wanting more and more control on what is being published as opinion. This creates some tension with publishers as normally, they are allowed a certain amount of editorial integrity so long as the information is factual.

What challenges do we face when it comes to compliance issues in Quebec versus the rest of Canada, and how do we help clients overcome these challenges?

Additional disclaimers are needed to determine who is eligible for Quebec offers.

Quebec offers are generally in French, so the language barrier can also be tricky. Publishers need to have geotargeting in place in order to know when to display a Quebec offer.

What should a financial brand that wants to enter the Canadian market be doing ahead of time?

Have the ability to geotarget and be able to post content in both English and French to increase opportunities with more potential customers.

Are you a financial services advertiser who is looking to invest in affiliate marketing to reach more customers? Get in touch with us today.