Affiliate Ads and The Four Roles of Ad Agencies

Irep Inc.

Affiliate ads bring many benefits to advertisers, but there are many companies that enlist the support of ad agencies to ensure their safe operation. This article will explain what support ad agencies provide, the benefits of hiring an ad agency, and the roles that ad agencies play in affiliate ads. This article assumes the use of CARRAC. 

*This article was transferred from a column on CARRAC’s official note account.  Original article: 

The ad agency’s role ①: Media procurement 

One of the most crucial roles of the ad agency when it comes to affiliate ads is media procurement, which may decide the fate of the ad itself. For affiliate ads, even if the product or service is great, if the media (affiliate site) doesn’t cover it, users won’t be able to access information on the product or service. That’s why the media count is so crucial and is also the mission of the ad agency to procure media.

That doesn’t mean that the quantity of the media is all that matters. There are different media for different products and industries that excel at appealing to users and solving the challenges of the advertisers. The competition for placing ads on such media is intense, so it’s essential to negotiate to ensure that your demands are satisfied. 


Since affiliate ads are by definition ads that employ a transaction method in which payment of advertising fees occurs in response to results, when negotiating with the media, the focus is on the conditions for achieving results and the payment amount. Negotiations are concluded when the media agrees to the conditions proposed by the advertiser, but there are times when negotiations don’t lead to an agreement. In such cases, it’s the role of the ad agency to find the optimal solution. They should investigate the advertiser’s budget, future development plans, the media’s view of market conditions and expectations, and the status of competing requests, and continue communicating until an agreement is reached. 

Apart from this, it’s also important to show the media with whom ad agencies are dealing for the first time how trustworthy the agency is. Ad agencies should strive to build a relationship of trust by explaining how it deals with clients and affiliates, CARRAC’s stance on transactions, and what guidelines are followed for ad operations to prevent any incidents. First, it’s important to try to understand the other party and vice versa. Then, it’s time to make proposals that are beneficial to both the advertiser and the media and set terms that are acceptable to both parties. As a partner, it’s very important to communicate carefully with the media so that a long-term relationship can be built with them. 

Figure 2: Abilities to negotiate long-term relationships are crucial

We discussed the importance of researching media to prepare for negotiating in the previous paragraph. In terms of how to collect information, we advise on using the internet, which allows for broad and shallow collection of information. Use third party tools that calculate the page view count and check the daily activities of the media. This is just to grasp the overall trends of the industry. It’s not enough to negotiate or select the actual media where the ad will be published. To acquire more accurate information on a deeper level, conduct a hearing with the ASP. 

ASPs, as intermediaries between affiliate marketers and advertisers, are the best consultants because they gather the latest information on all aspects of affiliate advertising, including media trends and examples of advertising policies. Having more than one ASP to consult with will increase the accuracy and objectivity of the information. 

However, consulting with an ASP doesn’t guarantee that they’ll tell you everything you need to know. In the case of advertising agencies, in addition to past transactions and actual results, the length of the transaction period and the company’s social credibility generally deepen the density of the relationship. 

Incidentally, CARRAC has built relationships with almost all of the ASPs that exist in Japan since its establishment in 2005. As an advertising agency, the more people we consult with, the more options we can present to advertisers, so our network with ASPs is also a valuable asset. Since our role is to represent advertisers in achieving results, we are not beholden to any particular ASP or media outlet, but rather maintain a moderate distance from them from a neutral standpoint and develop measures based on a policy of selecting the partners with whom we cooperate in what we judge to be the best way for advertisers. 

The ad agency’s role ②: Reproducibility of successful patterns

The second role of the ad agency is to reproduce successful patterns. Leaving tips on how to continue producing results with the same product enables affiliate ads to continue producing results. To do this, it’s important to analyze the success or failure factors of the measures that have been implemented. The affiliate sites where the ads were placed, the context in which they were introduced, the characteristics of the users viewing the media, and the media’s methods of attracting customers are analyzed before patterns are pursued to see if similar results can be replicated in similar media when implementing the next measure. 

For example, even in beauty-related media, some media introduce esthetic treatments and bring in users who sign up for expensive courses, while others bring in a large number of users who end up only taking campaign courses. We find that there are differences in the content trends posted and the methods used to attract customers to the site. The former may attract users with a high level of seriousness because they post content that explains their experience and the treatment equipment. The latter mainly posts price and campaign information, which may attract users who apply just out of curiosity. What kind of search keywords are used to find the site, and are they also using social media services to attract customers? If you can understand the background behind the results of the ad campaign, that information can be used as a reference to find the right media for the users you want to attract the next time you implement your strategy. 

The ad agency’s role ③: Ad quality and transparency 

The third role of an advertising agency is to improve the quality and transparency of advertising. The quality refers to the state in which the ad is placed. It’s the role of the ad agency to check that the ad is placed in the correct context and that there are no errors in its content. 

Basically, the management of affiliate ad performance utilizes the ad administrator screen provided by the ASP. On this screen, users can see the ads that have been placed in the media, which media they have clicked on, and to what extent they have resulted in conversions. However, it’s impossible to know until you go directly to the site to see in what context or word the user took action after seeing the ads posted. It’s possible that the selling price is incorrect and the user misunderstood the facts. The reality is that unless someone actively goes to look, it’s impossible to know if a mistake has even been made. Another dilemma is that the more you pursue great results, the more media you will have to advertise in. It’ll take time and effort to check all of them. On top of checking, it’s crucial to have the know-how and system to know how to secure the right personnel and what to check. 

Figure 3: Checking the results using the administrator screen provided by the ASP

Affiliate advertising is very flexible, with the strength of introducing products within the media’s own content. If the ad space were formatted, it would be possible to automate the checking process, but there are limits to automated checking because it is necessary to check not only the words that directly mention the product, but also the context of the entire content. Currently, direct human verification is the most accurate and can be completed in the shortest amount of time. For this reason, CARRAC conducts site patrols and corrects problematic wording to ensure that ads are posted in the correct context and with appropriate wording and descriptions. In addition to checking prices, discount rates, etc., after creating checklist items in advance, CARRAC also checks for wording that violates the law. We have structured our human checks to ensure that quality is maintained efficiently and reliably while taking advantage of the highly flexible nature of affiliate advertising. 

And in the unlikely event that a mistake is discovered during site patrols, we ask the media to correct it. However, the corrections are only made after the information has been released to the public. In affiliate advertising, which has the advantage of transmitting information from a third-party perspective, advertisers and advertising agencies cannot control the content of the advertisement in advance. In addition to after-the-fact confirmation, it’s also important to prevent mistakes from occurring by carefully providing information and sharing checklist items before the advertisement is posted.

Depending on the content, if the mistake violates the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations or the Act on Securing Quality, Efficacy and Safety of Products Including Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices, it could lead to penalties including arrest. Due to the third-party perspective nature of affiliate advertising, if there is a problem with the content created by the media, it is the media that will be held responsible. However, if the advertiser or advertising agency intentionally instructs the media to include wording that violates the law, or if they violate the law by giving incorrect information to affiliates, even if there is no intention to do so, the advertiser will also be held liable. Regardless of which side causes the problem, once it is reported in the media, the corporate image will be damaged, so it’s best to conduct thorough quality control, considering the time and cost required to restore trust. 

In this day in age, people expect that the information found on the internet is as accurate as that found on the newspaper. The responsibility of delivering accurate information to users lies not only on the media but also the ad agency and advertiser. As an ad agency, CARRAC is conscious not only of the advertiser, but also affiliates, and users visiting the media. Relevant parties work together to deliver useful information to clients. We also ensure the industry as a whole increases the transparency and safety of affiliate ads.

The ad agency’s role ④: Guarantee of a sustainable operation 

The final step is for the advertising agency to accumulate the roles described in ① through ③ as knowledge and know-how on behalf of the company. This is because there are many situations in which companies cannot accumulate know-how on their own due to periodic personnel changes and staff retirements. For this reason, many advertisers outsource the creation of a system that enables sustainable advertising operations to outside advertising agencies. The requests of advertisers who continue to use affiliate advertising seem to include whether the advertising agency proposes measures in line with the reproducibility of successful patterns based on accumulated knowledge, and whether the agency is aware of creating a system that can continue to do so in the future. 

We are also asked for advice on where to begin, and what data should be used as indicators during operation. While practical matters are of course important, it’s also important for first-time advertisers to be able to have an image of success

Even if people say that affiliate advertising is performance-based advertising, people don’t usually think of it as advertising when compared to search-linked advertising or display advertising, so it may be understandable that some people have the misconception that all they need to do is prepare a banner or register with an ASP and the ad will be delivered. Affiliate advertising is a style of posting content introducing products from a third-party perspective. The style of the advertisement varies, ranging from a comparison site to an article-style advertisement. In order to have articles created, information must be provided not only to the user, but also to the affiliate. If you don’t understand the nature of affiliate advertising, even if you go through the trouble of posting an article, the content may be thin and unappealing, or it may even lead to problems. 

While it may be possible to learn as you work, it’s difficult to achieve results by implementing measures without planning. In order to avoid wasting valuable advertising budget, it may be more efficient to research how to make affiliate advertising successful and consult with an advertising agency or ASP in advance. 


  • Prior research and communication abilities are key to procuring media 
  • Reproducibility of successful patterns leads to continuous success
  • Highly flexible ads mean that increasing quality and transparency is crucial
  • Consult ad agencies and ASPs that understand the features and secure an operational system that is sustainable

The tasks of ad agencies vary widely. Each has their own strengths and policies, but their primary role is to understand the nature and features of affiliate ads and to support their safe operation. Especially when introducing affiliate advertising for the first time or when considering operations with a view to medium- to long-term business growth, you may want to consider using an ad agency, as you can operate while making use of their know-how, knowledge, and management system. 

We’ll continue providing easy-to-understand explanations of affiliate advertising from the agency’s perspective, so stay tuned. 

As Japan’s top agency for affiliate advertising, CARRAC boasts a number of achievements and ample know-how, and has contributed to maximizing the results of our partner companies. 

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Irep Inc. is an award-winning global digital marketing agency based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our headquarters are in Tokyo and our network spans more than 20 countries. In Japan, we are ranked No. 1 for performance-based marketing. We also offer highly specialized market entry, as well as integrated marketing and localization services. Since 1997, our data-driven solutions have effectively led our diverse international clientele to continuous success in Japan, Asia, and beyond.

Irep Inc.
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