Exclusive Interview with PMA Founder, Rebecca Madigan

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Rebecca Madigan of the PMA - Performance Marketing Association

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Rebecca Madigan, founder of the Performance Marketing Association. We had never met even though we’ve both been in the industry for years and seen each others’ names often. After reaching out via Facebook we connected and got to chat. She’s an incredible lady and has such a keen passion for affiliate marketing. I asked to interview her so we could all get to know her and her contributions to our industry a little more.

Q: Please tell us about yourself and how you got into the Performance Marketing industry.

“I started in performance marketing in 2005 when I joined Commission Junction in product management. My previous experience was in product development in the early Internet days (I was product manager for the first VoIP product on the market), telecommunications and wireless. In all those industries we embraced trade associations and standards groups, to help propel the growth of these emerging markets. It always amazed me there was no trade association for performance marketing, considering how complex this industry is. In April 2008, after raising some outside funding from Lurn, I began organizing the PMA.”

Q: What would you like people to know about you?

“I take the responsibilities of the PMA and this industry very seriously and personally. I put my heart into this, particularly the fight against the Affiliate Nexus Tax, and I’ve been trampled and beaten back but still keep going. But this pales in comparison to the 76,000 affiliate marketers whose incomes have been devastated. We have to get those people back in business, and that keeps me going. My fight is stronger than ever!”

Q: In all the work you’ve done with CJ, Lurn Inc and the Performance Marketing Association, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date?

“I think a lot of people in this industry will understand the feeling of being an entrepreneur, taking that giant leap of faith going out on your own, and living on the bleeding edge to get it going. As a matter of fact, I’m continually inspired by all the entrepreneurs from whom I’ve been inspired and mentored.

But hands down, the most difficult and greatest accomplishment professionally and personally, is beating back the Affiliate Nexus Tax bills around the country, and continuing the advocacy work in DC. The only political thing I ever did was vote regularly, so this was not only an unexpected direction but completely unknown and frightening. I feel responsibility to this industry every day with this issue. Even though we’ve beaten this back 60 times, there are 76,000 affiliate marketers, or about 1/3 of all publishers, who have been harmed. We need to get this solved once and for all, our best chances are in DC and we have a good chance of getting those folks back in business in 2013, early I hope!”

Q: Many people are still confused about legislations around Performance Marketing. What are the main points you feel people should understand?

“Affiliate marketers are the unintended victims in a battle between big box retailers like Walmart, Best Buy and Target, and online retailers like Amazon and Overstock, who haven’t had to collect sales tax in most states.

In order for a state to get a retailer to collect its sales tax, the US Constitution requires that business must have a physical presence, or ‘nexus’ in the state. Typically that has meant a store or warehouse. But these ‘Affiliate Nexus Tax’ laws, aka Amazon tax laws, state that if those retailers have advertising agreements with Affiliate Marketers in the state, that’s the same as having a store, or nexus. About 1,000 online advertisers responded by terminating their affiliate agreements, to avoid having to collect sales tax. It has passed in 9 states, wiping out a huge amount of income for about 76,000 affiliates. The PMA successfully sued Illinois to block the law, but even though the judge ruled it was unconstitutional, the state is keeping the law in effect during the appeal.

There is Federal legislation in DC that would make this whole thing go away. The bills, in the House and Senate, remove that ‘nexus’ requirement, meaning all retailers must collect for all states, with our without physical presence. The PMA is actively lobbying in support of these bills and we see some very positive momentum. It will likely take until early 2013, after the presidential election.”

Q: If you could tell new merchants something they should know about Performance Marketing, what would it be?

“Performance marketing is the most relevant kind of advertising to consumers. Our whole industry depends on consumers trusting and clicking through on performance ads and taking action. We only get paid if consumers are happy! And publishers take all the up front risk, merchants only pay for ads that perform.”

It would be great if there were more people like Rebecca in our industry. However more and more people who feel the same kind of responsibility and passion are coming out of the woodworks, which is essential to the positive development of affiliate marketing locally and globally. I’m proud to now know Rebecca and thank her for her effort and contribution to the performance marketing world.