Fresh off Affiliate World Asia 2023 in Bangkok on December 7-8, I'm still buzzing with energy and insight from the conference. However, this year's event felt different, with a subtle undercurrent of curiosity and uncertainty.
The recent acquisition of Affiliate World by a new corporate player cast a slight shadow, raising questions about changes to this beloved community event. Would the new owners alter the nature of the Affiliate World Conference?
Despite the uncertainty, one aspect remained steadfast: the phenomenal community. Kudos to the Affiliate World team for pulling off another spectacular event, truly "by affiliates, for affiliates." I felt that same sense of community, camaraderie, and partnership among fellow affiliate marketers from around the globe.
Now, I want to dive deeper into my key observations from Affiliate World Asia: Bangkok 2023, including both exciting developments and cautious concerns about the conference's future evolution. Prepare for a whirlwind tour of the sessions, networking, tools, and talking points that stood out this year.
There is tremendous value at this conference, but there are also unanswered questions about changes under the new ownership. So buckle up, fellow affiliates, as we explore the exhilarating yet unpredictable waters ahead for the future of Affiliate World Asia! I aim to provide my perspective as an experienced attendee, including both optimistic possibilities and worries about the corporate influence on this gathering.
Day 0: Bangkok Blitz
The unrelenting Bangkok humidity clung to me like a second skin as I touched down on December 5th, one day before Affiliate World Asia officially commenced. Jet lag? Not a chance. My agenda overflowed with pre-event meetups, promising a whirlwind of reconnecting and networking before the conference madness kicked off.
The day rushed by in a blur of familiar faces and new connections. The Affiliate Business Club meetup pulsated with vibrant energy, the air thick with entrepreneurial enthusiasm. Dinner invitations flew as fast as confetti, each one an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and forge strategic alliances with newcomers.
Then came the Propeller Meetup, a vibrant hub of digital marketers from entrepreneurs to businesses It was meet-up after meet-up, a never-ending carousel of handshakes, business cards, and shared stories.
Two AWA had passed since I last graced the halls of Affiliate World Asia, and the reunion was electric. It was like stepping back into a family reunion, the warmth of friends and media buyers washing over me. Laughter echoed through the air as we reminisced about past conferences and hatched plans for the future.
Day Zero wasn't just a pitstop before the main event. It was a whirlwind in its own right, a microcosm of the vibrant, diverse, and dynamic world of affiliate marketing. It was a reminder of the power of connection, the fuel that drives our industry, and as I drifted off to sleep that night, the anticipation for the official conference kickoff crackled in the air – a promise of knowledge bombs, game-changing strategies, and a chance to dive even deeper into the community that makes this world tick.
As night fell, the reunions continued under Bangkok's twinkling lights. Bottles clinked, industry secrets were whispered, and dormant relationships reignited with renewed passion.
Day 1: Mixed Bag of Feelings
Battling jetlag and fueled by coffee, I plunged into the heart of Affiliate World Asia on Day 1. The usual 11am start felt like a welcome respite, but a snafu greeted me; my name was already checked in! Someone checked in as me, Ian Fernando! Who in the hell...
This was a first for me, but I mean, who wouldn't want to be me...
An unexpected 40-minute wait while they validated my ID left me curious. Was this a new security measure? Even scanning into the show floor was different. Gone were the badge scans with your image popping up, replaced by a simple scan-in, scan-out system. This change felt significant, hinting at potential shifts in the conference's approach.
The first impression of the show floor was... crowded. Gone were the spacious areas for networking and deal-making that defined past Affiliate World experiences—instead, a sea of booths filled every corner, even the perimeter! Smaller booths dominated the landscape, with only one small cafe offering a refuge. My attention was drawn to the abundance of gambling and crypto booths, a likely consequence of the Sigma partnership.
Here, they purposely had fun networking floors to do business because, as affiliates, we want to conduct business in a comfortable zone, and the energy of the show floor brings that, but in a more relaxed environment.
Stepping outside, the networking areas were similarly cramped. An oxygen bar and a small cafe were the only solace. The iWin booth with gameplay was a novelty, but it lacked the usual sponsored networking spaces and collaborative environments.
Fun seemed to be in short supply. The lack of entertainment and relaxation options contrasted sharply with past conferences, where breaks from business were encouraged. This absence felt like a missed opportunity to foster genuine connections outside of the pressure of deals and pitches.
Then came the audio issues. The main stage presentation I attended was delayed by 20–30 minutes, and upon speaking with others, I discovered this was a recurring theme. Technical glitches and delays cast a shadow on the day's proceedings.
Day 1 was a mixed bag of surprises, both welcome and unwelcome. The shift in layout, the technical difficulties, and the focus on smaller booths hint at a new direction for Affiliate World Asia. While some elements felt like improvements, others left me yearning for the familiar, more relaxed atmosphere of past conferences. Only time will tell if these changes ultimately enhance the experience for the vibrant community that makes this event so special.
Day 2: Networking
Day two was a whirlwind of familiar faces and fresh connections. I ditched the late nights, opting for a focused morning at the booths. The show floor was still bustling, though admittedly feeling smaller than in previous years. But quantity wasn't the goal; it was quality. I met with key partners, explored exciting new offerings, and rekindled the flame of old friendships.
Lunch with fellow affiliates and pals from the industry was the perfect mid-day break, filled with laughter and industry insights. These shows are more than just business; they're the glue that binds our vibrant community. Beyond Skype chats and WhatsApp groups, it's where we connect, share triumphs and challenges, and build bonds that fuel our success. Seeing old partners and colleagues who've played a part in my journey—was the true gold of this conference.
What is Next for Affiliate World?
As for the future of the Affiliate World? It's a curious landscape. The recent changes, while understandable, have undoubtedly altered the experience. Some elements are missing: the spaces for casual interaction and the spontaneous fun that made these conferences truly special.
But here's the thing: Affiliate World has always been about the people and the community, and that spirit, that spark of connection, still burns bright. Whether the layout changes or booths get smaller, the core value of these events remains the chance to forge lasting relationships, learn from each other, and fuel our collective growth.
I'm curious to know: where did the 5,000 affiliates go? This was a mixed bag of gamers, crypto bros, gambling marketers, and traditional media buyers. The crowd was different, but I was fine with that. It was the palpable shift in the overall show energy that got me thinking - what is happening here?
In the past, this hall would be overflowing with affiliates from all niches mingling, networking, and sharing ideas. I'm all for newcomers, fresh perspectives, and evolving with the times. But I couldn't shake the feeling that the heart and soul of Affiliate World Asia was slipping away, and along with it, the tight-knit community that fueled such breakthrough success year after year.
So, while I may miss the spacious networking areas and late-night shenanigans, I wholeheartedly believe that the essence of Affiliate World endures. It's about the friendships we build, the knowledge we share, and the passion we hold for this dynamic, ever-evolving industry. And that, my friends, is a force no acquisition or change in layout can ever dim.
As I reflect on Affiliate World Asia: Bangkok 2023, I can't help but worry if the carefree and community-driven spirit that makes this conference so special is beginning to dwindle. With the recent corporate acquisition, there are subtle signs of a shift towards a more formulaic event optimized for cost and efficiency.
Don't get me wrong, I genuinely understand the rationale behind streamlining operations. Running global conferences at scale is an immense undertaking, so some structural improvements make good business sense. However, I would hate to see Affiliate World lose its affiliate-centric soul in the process.
I love this industry. More pictures here...