Marketing that’s a riot.

Riot marketing
Riot marketing

What better way to boost affiliate marketing revenue than by capitalizing on social unrest?

G20 Affiliate

Last week, Hamburg took center stage in the world’s media consciousness—first as host of the much-anticipated G20 Summit, and then as a playground for marauding rioters to clash with police, set fire to cars and plunder local businesses. The coverage garnered significant traction on social media especially, where the at times terrifying videos were shared several million times. But like the old saying goes, every Molotov cocktail has a silver lining (Is that right? Yeah, that’s right.) And marketers loose on morals recognized the chance and pounced to earn money as affiliates. OMR presents the questionable practice.

Using clever marketing to piggyback off of big media events is not exactly reinventing the wheel. Whether it’s a solar eclipse, the Pope traveling to the US or major sporting events like the World Cup (links in German), if there is heightened media attention, you can bet that someone is plotting to leverage the event into monetary gain. That’s seeing an opportunity and capitalizing, i.e. effective business practice. However, when the affiliates exploit events where, riots and vandalism are the focal point—similar to what went down in Hamburg—the practice leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Over 5 million views for pepper spray

The “winner” of most-successful affiliate marketing stunt from the past few days was a mini Facebook page called Car Gadgets.” Since January 2017, the people behind the page have, according to their own figures, been dedicating to publishing current topics, fails, wins and gadgets for cars. The page only has 5500 fans and most of its posts have videos that notch views in the lower 5-figure range and do not contain affiliate links. One clip uploaded at 2:30 AM on July 8th—just after the worst of the riots in Hamburg’s Schanze neighborhood ended—stands heads and shoulders above the rest.


The video shows a dozen odd protestors blocking some unnamed diplomat from driving further. Eventually the driver makes a u-turn and bolts, running over a bicycle in the process. At the time of publishing, the video had been viewed over 6 million times, had 169K likes and been shared over 45K times. The publishers, too, were all too aware of just how successful the video was and added an affiliate link some nine hours later which redirects to the Amazon product page for pepper spray. The post has since been augmented to include a link to its apparent source, a local Hamburg newspaper, which adds an air of legitimacy.

How many sales and how much revenue the stunt generated, why the post was augmented to include its source, if the operators boosted the post on Facebook or if there were any moral qualms about the “campaign” are all questions that remain open after the site operators failed to respond to our request for comment. From the outside, it is impossible to estimate how much in commission they generated. It’s also difficult to say with certainty how many views the video had before the links were added, how many users interacted with the post or to know how many users who clicked the link ordered anything on Amazon and how much they spent within 24 hours (which is the duration of Amazon’s affiliate cookie, provided that users do not click another affiliate’s link).

Nevertheless, here is a conservative calculation that provides a viable framework. If just one percent of users who watch the video click the link, that means roughly 60K users are redirected to Amazon. If we assume a conversion rate of one percent and an average shopping cart value of €20 with an average affiliate provision of 5 percent, that yields a total revenue of €600. Not too bad for a video not filmed by the operators and uploaded on a whim.

Update, July 11:

The day after this article appeared on our German flagship site, the page operator got back to us, saying that our commission estimates were “very close,”  that the post was not boosted and that all views were organic. 

A fiery drive through the neighborhood

Another page piggybacking on the G20 is the Facebook page “Black Ops 3 News.” With 33,000 fans, “Black Ops” is actually the self-described “perfect page for gaming entertainment.” Last Friday morning, however, the page operators uploaded a hugely successful video, depicting a car driving down one of Hamburg’s most picturesque streets, weaving through burning cars and barricades. The video was tagged with #G20 and viewed some 23,000 times, the source included in the post is Radio Hamburg and an affiliate link was also added 30 minutes after initial publishing. At first, the affiliate link redirected to a book called “111 Places to See in Hamburg,” later the link sends users to the Amazon product page for fire extinguishers.


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Derzeitig in Hamburg.. Das braucht jeder in so einer Situation: Radio Hamburg#G20

Posted by Black Ops 3 News on Friday, 7 July 2017


One especially troubling attempt at using affiliate links to profit from the attention generated by the G20 riots comes from the Facebook page “Top Angebote jeden Tag” (Big deals every day). For it’s video on the riots, the page, which only has 500 fans, used a thumbnail of a protestor setting himself on fire to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The accompanying copy reads in all caps “+++HAMBURG IN A STATE OF EMERGENCY+++” and “HAMBURG’S ON FIRE — INCREDIBLE.” There are also two Amazon affiliate links embedded, one to a breathing mask and one to another fire extinguisher. Fortunately, this video has only been viewed 6800 times.

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Aus gegebenem Anlass.. ._.

Posted by [Umstrittener Humor] Der Sexuell belästigungs Panda on Saturday, 8 July 2017

The award for the least amount of engagement goes to the Facebook page with the most fans here. “[Umstrittener Humor] Der sexuelle Belästigungspanda” ([Controversial humor] The Sexual Harassment Panda) has some 160K fans, but the image of a left-wing protestor getting her McDonalds on that was posted during the G20 “only” tallied 1000 likes and 70 shares. The point is obvious, as should be the fact that the picture has been making the rounds as a meme for the past year. While the post performed poorly in comparison to the aforementioned posts, it still stands out as it’s the only one that made use of Facebook’s relatively new “branded content” function. The post is labeled as “paid” and names Amazon as a partner. If you are curious, the affiliate link redirects to a “Lovesick anti-clutter spray.” If you don’t know what the hell that is, don’t worry–you’ve got a year until G20 2018 kicks off in Buenos Aires.

Torben Lux & Scott Peterson
All Articles of Torben Lux & Scott Peterson

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