The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Successful Affiliate Marketing Reality Show

July 21, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park  

top affiliate challengeLove it or hate it, the Top Affiliate Challenge was the first affiliate marketing reality show to successfully air online in real time. The show undoubtedly had some major flaws and made newbie mistakes, but all in all, I think it’s a good start to developing an idea that can potentially be very successful. Props to Thor Schrock for that.

I admit that after watching the first couple of episodes, I was very skeptical of the show and what it could offer. Production was unprofessional, the host Monica Durazo was very inexperienced (although she looks great on camera), contestants were turning against the show, contest rules were extremely flawed, and little was shared on the topic of actual affiliate marketing strategies. To top it all off, the drama component of the show was weak at best and to be honest, very dull. The later episodes (9-14) showed much improvement and were actually kind of entertaining and insightful, but there’s no doubt that the crew has a lot to work on before rolling out season 2. Nevertheless, congratulations to Carl Zetterlund and Jonathan Van Clute for being the finalists this time around.

Now that the show is officially done with, I wanted to share my thoughts on how to make the affiliate marketing reality show better – not only for viewers, but for the contestants, owners, and affiliate marketing community in general. If you read this and plan on using my ideas, be sure to contact me so we can start up on the venture. 🙂

First of all, get the hell out of Lincoln, Nebraska

Ok, no offense to Thor and Shoemoney, but an affiliate marketing reality show has no business being filmed in the boonies of Nebraska. A corn farming competition I can understand, but come on, an Internet marketing show in Nebraska? You’ve got to be kidding me. So much for cutting edge, right? Next time pick a large market city like New York, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas. Not only will this change alone attract more global media attention, but it will also appeal to more potential contestants, sponsors, and viewers who ultimately determine the quality of the show. I know it costs a whole lot more money, but you simply cannot skimp out on this critical step!

Lose the “gurus”

One aspect of Top Affiliate Challenge that I did not like was the heavy reliance on Internet marketing “gurus”. These individuals were put on a pedestal and praised for their expertise, even though nothing was really revealed on the show. What’s the point of that? I was also very disappointed in the performance of John Chow and the absence of Shoemoney. These are very successful guys who know their stuff, but it seemed like they were mascots placed to generate hype rather than experts on the show ready to share their knowledge. My advice would be to get rid of the whole “guru” system. It’s not needed and actually detracts from the contestants who should be running the competition.

Build out an all-star cast

Now that we’ve taken out the so-called “gurus”, what do we do? Make them the contestants! Top Affiliate Challenge had many participants who barely had any experience with affiliate marketing or making money online. How do you expect people like that to learn and produce in a 2 week time span? It simply is not possible. Rather than putting newbies on the show and watching them generate $0 in income everyday, recruit super affiliates who already have large followings and steady streams of income. Not only will this significantly improve the quality of the show, but it will also open up more doors for marketing opportunities and increase revenue potential by a huge margin. How would you like a show featuring a giant competition between Paul Borque, Jon Fisher, Zac Johnson, Shoemoney, Amit Mehta, Jonathan Volk and more? Would you pay to see that? I know I would. An analogy would be watching an NBA basketball game versus a high school game with pubescent teens. It’s really no contest. Simply put – get the best people to be on your show, even if you have to pay a premium to convince them and make it worth their while.

Make the auditioning process for a real affiliate offer

Another huge flaw in Top Affiliate Challenge is the fact that the auditioning process involves a voting system around personal videos. How is that related to affiliate marketing? How am I able to vote for the best contestant judging only from a talking head? A better way to filter out the cream of the crop affiliates is to create a 2-tier audition process – first for judging affiliate marketing skills and second for personality. Partner with an affiliate network and have people audition by promoting a selection of offers. The top X number of people who produced the most revenue in a month then make it on to the next round. Here they’ll submit videos and a panel of judges make the final decision. I would recommend scratching the entire voting system – it’s rarely accurate and is a headache to manage as people will inevitably try to game the system.

Affiliate Summit is your friend

Ever hear of a conference called Affiliate Summit? Thousands of affiliates as well as hundreds of people from affiliate networks and merchants gather together in one location to talk shop and learn more about the industry. Where’s a better place to launch an affiliate marketing reality show? Last time I went to Affiliate Summit in February, a TAC booth was nowhere to be found. Get in there guys!

Contestants are your biggest assets

As a reality show producer, you may be boggled down by a lot of different components of the show, but you cannot forget that members of the cast are your biggest assets. Without their full cooperation and support, the show is bound for failure. It’s important to cater to their needs and ensure that they know what’s going on at all times. From my understanding, contestants on Top Affiliate Challenge had no idea what they were getting themselves into from the start. Although this might add to the drama, it could also lead to people feeling alienated and used – which is a sure-fire formula for disaster. Set the rules and expectations from the beginning, communicate them with the contestants, and work to get your cast excited and happy to be on the show – a win-win situation for all.

Forget the team structure

I don’t mean to sound like a lone ranger here, but what’s the point of having a team if only 1 affiliate can take home the cash prize? It doesn’t make sense that weaker affiliates should be promoted because of stronger ones on the team bumping them up. I would say to drop the whole team structure and see how each affiliate stacks up using his or her own unique methods and strategies.

Don’t eliminate contestants

Every experienced affiliate marketer brings something to the table. Why eliminate them before they’re fully able to show the world what they’ve got? That just seems silly. Rather than eliminating contestants day by day, keep them on the show and have them compete the whole way through. This is especially important with an all-star cast. A lot of affiliate marketing is about trail and error. Just because someone fails one day doesn’t mean he or she can’t make it big the next day. Use a points system instead to keep score and judge the contestants.

Give everyone a budget

The biggest flaw in Top Affiliate Challenge was that affiliates were allowed to use any resources they had to “make the most money possible.” This included favors from others, your own money, and your own connections. Are you joking? How is that a fair competition? And why in the world would anyone want to spend their own money to make the show money? It just doesn’t make sense to me. To illustrate this further, an affiliate on the show could potentially use his own money to start up a “profitable” PPC campaign. However, at the end of the day, they’re still down whatever they spent out of pocket because all of the earned revenue goes to the show’s account! On the flip side, someone could launch a large PPC campaign with a negative ROI, and still win the show based on revenue alone. Does that make sense? Affiliate marketing is about profit, not just revenue. My suggestion would be to fund each affiliate with a budget from the start, say $5,000. From this, they can do whatever they want with the money and performance will be based on profit – not just revenue.

Related sponsors only please

Another thing I did not like about TAC was that many of the sponsors were not related to affiliate marketing at all. In fact, many of the sponsors were brick and mortar shop local to Nebraska. Were they targeting this area with this affiliate marketing show? I would hope not. Keep sponsors related to affiliate marketing and target a global audience. This way, sponsors receive the most value for their investment, viewers see relevant ads they are interested in, and the show makes the most sponsorship income possible.

There’s no such thing as real-time so take your time!

The production quality of the Top Affiliate Challenge suffered greatly because of the unnecessary time constraints put in place. Sure the “real time” aspect adds a little more zest to the show, but it really isn’t worth it if overall quality is compromised. Besides, it’s not real-time unless it’s live. Rather than posting up episodes the next day, wait a week or so. It really won’t make much of a difference in terms of time and quality will improve significantly.

Cover different events for affiliate marketing

TAC featured affiliate marketing challenges that were vague, random, and many times unfair. How do you allow affiliates to use PPC, SEO, blogging, and email lists for the same challenge? Each is its own animal and should be treated as such. That’s like putting Pee Wee Herman, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Yokozuna in the same ring. They should be fighting in their own appropriate classes. My suggestion is to ditch the whole “make as money as you can using whatever method you can think of” idea, and use an event system similar to what is used in ESPN’s World’s Strongest Man challenges. For example, there will be there will be 5 events related to PPC, blogging, social media, SEO, and email marketing. The top contestants in each event will be awarded points according to their position. The contestant with the most points in the end will be crowned as the top affiliate. Seems logical, no?

Build a product to sell afterwards

Since the cast will be made up of all-star affiliates, it’s a smart business idea to gain as much knowledge from them as possible and get it on video. This is the stuff that people actually want to see and hear. Create a content-packed affiliate marketing course complete with actual case studies from the show and “secrets” from the top affiliates themselves. The drama of the show would be an excellent upsell to the detailed learnings and methodology used by the affiliates. Not only would this be a lucrative way to generate revenue, but it would also build credibility in the affiliate marketing community.

Hopefully these tips offer some good insights into creating an affiliate marketing reality show – straight from an affiliate marketer and viewer. I don’t have the time or resources to start my own show, but I’d be happy to get involved and help out. Good luck to TAC – I’m looking forward to season 2!

What were your thoughts on the Top Affiliate Challenge? What would you do differently to make it a success?

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18 Responses to “The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Successful Affiliate Marketing Reality Show”

Barbara Ling on July 21st, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email


Your point:

“Create a content-packed affiliate marketing course complete with actual case studies from the show and “secrets” from the top affiliates themselves. ”

You mean an affiliate marketing show ISN’T doing that? Wouldn’t such a step be kinda sorta more obvious than a pink elephant at a biker mouse convention?

Gyutae Park on July 25th, 2008

Well there’s only so much that can be included in an affiliate marketing reality show. People are more interested in the drama component in that situation, so it wouldn’t be optimal to be teaching all the time.

For people who actually want to learn the strategies used, a supplemental product would do very well.

Jason on July 22nd, 2008

Watched the first show, and couldn’t take anymore myself. You’re right, Nebraska was the first mistake. The only thing going through my head when I was watching the show was, I’m glad I’m not there….seems pretty damn boring, lol.

Gyutae Park on July 25th, 2008

lol, yeah I’m sure Nebraska is not very exciting. I actually talked to some of the contestants, and although they were not happy about a lot of the aspects of the show, they were still glad they went for the networking and learning opportunities.

big jason 25k blog contest on July 22nd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

wow guyate. this is one of the most constructive posts yet about top affiliate challenge

big jason

Gyutae Park on July 25th, 2008

Thanks Jason. Those were my opinions and thoughts from a viewer’s standpoint. I’m sure you have a lot of other insights that I failed to mention.

Thor Schrock on July 22nd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Thanks for the feedback. I sincerely appreciate it and we are going to retool many things about the show for next season.

We may tweak the location, but that is not on the top of the list at the moment.

Gyutae Park on July 25th, 2008

Thanks for the followup Thor. I know I present things very black and white in the post, but I know there are a ton of other complexities that make a reality show extremely difficult to run. I think this idea has potential and I hope that you stick it through for season 2.

Secret Affiliate Code on July 22nd, 2008

Some very funny (and true) points here. I can’t believe this was held in Lincoln, Nebraska. Other than corn fields, I have no idea what’s out there! It should have been help in some major city for more exposure.

Gyutae Park on July 25th, 2008

Haha, yeah. Nebraska is pretty ridiculous. I think it was mainly due to financial restrictions. Imagine the costs involved if it was held in NYC. It just would not be possible for the team given the limited resources.

Zac Johnson on July 22nd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Nice writeup. Very in depth and laid out well. With the amount of advice and criticism the show and Thor are receiving, their planning for the next season, should show major improvements.

Gyutae Park on July 25th, 2008

Thanks Zac. Let’s hope so. I think a show like this is good for the industry. Would you ever sign on as a contestant or guru?

Dustin on July 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

My biggest concern was the fact that they were in Lincoln, Nebraska. More advertisers are willing to pay if your in a bigger city with lots more exposure. That’s just my opinion. But in any case, good write up though Gyutae.

Gyutae Park on July 25th, 2008

Thanks Dustin. Totally agree with you on the Nebraska point. In fact, that’s usually the first thing viewers notice… why the hell is it in the cornfields?

Dustin on July 25th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Yeah, I’d rather see a bit more “metro geography” then “farmer’s geography.” In my opinion, Thor may not have this as the top priority but it should definitely be third or fourth on the list.

Once again, just my opinion…

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Irish on July 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I read many articles about this show in other blogs. Most of the readers are also agree that Nebraska is a big mistake. They should put on priority to change the location soon.

Saratoga Picks on July 31st, 2008

Yea I have no idea why they chose Nebraska.

Affiliate Marketing Blog on August 5th, 2008

I’m glad I found this garbage later than on time when everyone else did. Why do you have to include my name in that list?? Can’t you leave me out of it?

Jesus Christ… I’m insulted that you stuck me into that list of young guns and fakes. I have more experience in this industry if you combined all of the people you named PLUS every retard who commented here praising you for this oh so amazing post.

Get off my cock already. I hate posts like this because just when the popularity dies down, you gotta go and start it back up again!

Listen.. blog about the other jerkoffs, just leave me, my blog, and my name out of it.

PS – We need to give you a nickname.. I have no clue how to pronounce GyutaePark… Sounds more like “Gut eh?!” — Lets just call you Bambi until you agree to my request. Ya dig buddy? Awesome.

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