Affiliate Marketing Leaders: Sarah Bundy, Maura Smith, Shatay Trigere, Cristy Garcia, Lisa Chaikin, Debbi Dougherty

Dynamic CMO Panel at Affiliate Summit West First of its Kind

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Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges: Insights from ASW24’s Historic All-Female C-Suite Keynote Panel on the Future of Technology, Partnerships and Expertise.

In today’s blog post I delve into the key takeaways from an unprecedented session at Affiliate Summit West – the first-ever all-female CMO keynote panel featuring leaders from the world’s leading affiliate networks and tracking platforms.

On stage, we discussed the industry-shaping insights driving partnerships, technology, and expertise needed to thrive in the world of affiliate and partnership marketing. The audience gained valuable perspective into navigating today’s affiliate marketing landscape. They heard from the leaders who have the power and reach to be the loudest and farthest-reaching voices about the benefits and opportunities that come with affiliate and partnership marketing in a world where performance-based outcomes and efficient use of budgets is more important than ever.

I reached out to our accomplished panelists to ask them what they took away from their time together on stage, and what words of advice they would give the industry as we embark on a new year in affiliate and partnership marketing.

What did you take out of your time at ASW24? What was your most important takeaway?

What captivated me at ASW24 was the emphasis on affiliate marketing as a comprehensive strategy beyond performance. It’s not just about sales numbers; it’s about forging lasting customer relationships and needs to be woven into the marketing core. Its highlighted role in brand building and the importance of integrating it across various marketing channels really drive a more holistic approach.  – Debbi Dougherty, SVP Marketing & Communications, Rakuten Advertising

The need for us to work together, across competitors and partners, in our traditional ‘affiliate/partnership industry’ to reach beyond the current investments being made in our ‘channel’ and tell the full affiliate incrementality story. To do more together to share the unique value of our offering, bring the power of partnership-based performance marketing to marketing leaders’ awareness, and provide more access as part of an integrated marketing investment plan that spans the full customer engagement map. Work to do here! – Shatay Trigere, CMO, CJ

There is a lot more work to be done to elevate the industry and to win hearts and minds in the C-suite. That said, I’ve never been more determined to win. – Cristy Garcia, CMO,

The acknowledgement that our category has its share of struggles and the collective participants’ need to engage in hard work to overcome them.

Proponents in our category are hopeful that we can legitimize affiliate and partnerships to those in control of ad spend such that it is no longer misunderstood and instead viewed and considered a primary channel alongside its search, social and programmatic counterparts and supported by an influx of spend growing the category for all.

That means progressing technology with advancements that eliminate manual workflows and introduce predictability for brands while also improving yield for partners.  And of course with that comes the need to continually champion the channel with supporting evidence and education. – Maura Smith, SVP Marketing, Partnerize

It had been seven years since I last attended Affiliate Summit West and I can’t stress enough how valuable it was to spend time with our customers face to face. It’s easy to forget how important it is, so to be able to do so was fantastic. Sharing our US strategy for 2024, listening to their desires and needs for program growth, and collaborating on how we can collectively reach their goals … this is exactly what ASW is all about. – Lisa Chaikin, Vice President Marketing, Awin

How do you feel about making history at ASW being on the first ever all-female CMO keynote panel discussing Partnerships, Technology and Expertise in our industry?

My participation in the all-female leadership panel was for sure a historic and empowering experience. It was a proud moment that showcased the strength of collaborative female leadership and the value of diverse perspectives in discussing partnerships, technology, and expertise in our industry. It sparked conversations and that’s the kind of transformation that we should strive for. – Debbi Dougherty, SVP Marketing & Communications, Rakuten Advertising

I feel proud of the panelists, my colleagues and I, for preparing as a cross industry and competitor team with the intention to bring value to the attendees, to our industry as a whole and to our respective companies. I feel grateful to ASW (Heather James specifically) and to Sarah Bundy for making it happen and for fostering a productive, collaborative, thought-provoking experience. I feel hopeful for what we can continue to contribute together and each in our own areas of focus and responsibility. – Shatay Trigere, CMO, CJ

It was thrilling to be part of history! I enjoyed learning from everyone on stage and hope the audience had some good takeaways. – Cristy Garcia, CMO,

It was an honor to help make history by participating on the first all-female CMO panel at ASE, though I wish it happened sooner. Kudos to Heather James and the other panelists for making this a reality in 2024.

The panel discussion itself was a testament to the fact that while we each represent different organizations and therefore different viewpoints, there is a common understanding and acknowledgement that there is still so much value yet to be realized and unlocked in affiliate marketing as a whole. – Maura Smith, SVP Marketing, Partnerize

I loved the opportunity to share the stage with such smart, talented and empowering women, and was particularly inspired by our discussions on how we can come together to make our industry better – how we collaborate as competitors. There’s great opportunity and scope to drive more innovation and focus on diversifying the partnerships channel, and what better way to do this then to tell our collective story about what a powerful, innovative, expansive industry this is, together. – Lisa Chaikin, Vice President Marketing, Awin

What key tip do you want to leave our readers as they embark on 2024? 

Heading into 2024, my advice is to marry your strategies with a deep understanding of the customer journey. Think like a customer, walk the path they walk, and see how you can align every touchpoint with your brand’s ethos. The year calls for ingenuity that doesn’t just get noticed but fosters a genuine connection with your audience – Debbi Dougherty, SVP Marketing & Communications, Rakuten Advertising

We are moving to the age of ‘We’ vs. ‘Me,’ collective unity vs. selfish existence. Partnership-enabled media greatly expresses that mutually beneficial reality and way of doing business. When we are flexible enough to put ourselves in other people’s perspective, we gain a greater perspective, empathy, awareness, and insight into the highest possible outcomes that benefit more people, including ourselves and those we represent. This helps us be our best selves, do our best work, prioritize, and build the best tech and product, and execute the best programs. I have found this helpful for my career, business, and personal development. Hit me up if you want to talk more about that  It’s my passion. – Shatay Trigere, CMO, CJ

Today’s modern consumer is the most informed, discerning consumer we’ve ever seen. Being authentic, creating helpful and high-quality content, and working with partners so that you can be in all of the places your consumer is (researching your product on social media, reviews sites, YouTube, comparison articles, etc) is the only way to drive customer acquisition now. This is one reason why affiliate marketing is having a moment; now’s the time to capitalize on that. – Cristy Garcia, CMO,

In the U.S., the last PMA study sized affiliate marketing around $9B in ad spend. Compare that to U.S. search spend,  which is $100B+ in spend — there is no argument that affiliate is simply a fraction of that.  In addition, the majority of digital ad revenues are controlled by Amazon, Google and Meta. Marketers need an alternative; not only to offset the high price of operating in these channels, but also to simply have another means to stay in front of their audience. Affiliate can be that channel, but we need to drive more spend into the category. That is best accomplished through technology advancements that underpin the category’s growth and evidence that demonstrates the opportunity for CMOs to generate the outcomes they aspire via a channel other than those they are encumbered by today. It’s something we should all acknowledge and be aware of in order to drive meaningful progress and advancement for the category collective. – Maura Smith, SVP Marketing, Partnerize

Awin has recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey 650 senior marketers across the US and Europe to better understand their current perceptions of affiliate marketing and how they are realizing real value from their investments in the channel. The survey highlights top digital marketing priorities for 2024, marketing challenges and opportunities, and the importance of managing diverse relationships and leveraging innovative partnerships to capitalize on the true potential of affiliate marketing. 

NOTE: The Awin study mentioned above can be accessed here

And what did attendees have to say?

Final Thoughts

Having the honor to organize and moderate this incredible panel of thought leaders and power-house C-suite executives not only made my heart happy (thank you Affiliate Summit!) but it became a launch pad to these powerful global leaders to work together with a shared voice on the value and benefit of affiliate and partnership marketing today.

We will be working together throughout the course of 2024 to further the spread of this message. After all, when many voices come together for the greater purpose, more traction can happen that can benefit everyone. Collectively, we believe in pushing this industry and the companies, talent, partners and brands within it forward, and are committed to ensuring we showcase how partnerships work – by creating win-win-win opportunities everywhere we can.

A great big thank you to Heather James and the organizers at Affiliate Summit for giving us the stage to showcase such powerhouses sharing their expertise. A huge thank you to Maura Smith from Partnerize, Shatay Trigere from CJ, Debbi Dougherty from Rakuten Advertising, Cristy Garcia from, and Lisa Chaikin from Awin / ShareASale for being the inspirational, collaborative leaders that you are, and for helping push this industry forward together. Finally, a great big thank you to the team at All Inclusive Marketing, including Charlie Calabrese, for helping put this session together.