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lastminute.com Moves to Affiliate Marketing

[London, ENGLAND] Late deals company lastminute.com announced Monday a partnership with performance marketing specialist Be Free, Inc. to develop a pan-European affiliate marketing program.

Initially, the program will launch in the U.K. and will then be extended to France, Sweden and Germany. The U.K. launch is said to be "imminent," although no fixed starting-date has been announced.

Martha Lane Fox, chief operating officer and co-founder of lastminute.com, said affiliate marketing offered a win-win situation for both lastminute.com and its affiliate partners. She called it an "ideal method" of expanding the company's reach efficiently and cost effectively.

"We only pay partners whose customers have been directed to us and make a purchase on-site," said Fox.

Widely implemented but sometimes controversial, affiliate marketing has been criticized for working more in the favor of the marketer than the affiliate. The marketer always gains useful exposure whereas the affiliate gets only a very small percentage from sales which -- from the affiliate's point of view -- are often few and far between.

Gordon Hoffstein, chairman and chief executive of Be Free, is confident that lastminute.com will benefit from the deal, saying it would lower customer acquisition costs and extend the brand's reach across the global Web.

lastminute.com has extended its operations from its original offerings of last-minute air flights and holidays to other late deals in entertainment and dining out, together with a wide range of gift items. Earlier this year it signed joint venture agreements that will take it beyond Europe to Australia and South Africa.

45 percent of the goods sold on lastminute.com are non-travel related, a fact which suggests there will be plenty of scope for affiliates beyond the travel industry.