Advertising Technology

Quality, Information and Choice: Why Native Ads Work

Kunal_Gupta Native advertising, the phrase on the tip of every publisher’s tongue. If you haven’t had a meeting yet in 2014 centered around your sponsored content program, you have a lot of catching up to do. But even those who have strategized around the topic ad nauseam need to watch out for one thing: The wrong type of hype.

Like any new product which achieves success one has to avoid a common pitfall where the same old wares are touted as a new opportunity. Now that native advertising has established itself as a premium ad product and a consistent revenue tool that crosses the bridge between desktop and mobile, networks are coming out of the woodwork claiming they’ll take your success to the next level.

Before you make any rash decisions about taking your premium ad product and potentially devaluing it, please take a step back and examine what makes native advertising so successful in the first place.


As I’ve mentioned time and again, quality native advertising is the main driver of it’s own success. Immersive experiences that cater to the audience of the publication in which they appear are the standard bearer for everything that is exciting about native ads. A quality native ad takes into account the demographics and interests of the publications readers..

Take Buzzfeed, a publication which skews younger and trendier, thus they focus on advertisers meaningful to that audience. Television shows, packaged goods, media, and clothing can often be found posting listicles to the site.

This matching of quality content to an audience depends on that control. Being able to pick and choose your advertisers is something you might forfeit if you join a native ad network. Do you think you’ll still command that premium pricing when your readers fatigue after their presented with sponsored content that simply isn’t relevant to their tastes? No, you’ll devalue your product over time until your main selling point becomes obsolete.


You’re not just selling space when it comes to native advertising, you’re selling stats, analytics, likes, retweets and shares. You are the gatekeeper of your own ad-space and with that comes the opportunity to package the information pertaining to what your readers do with your content.

With a network you’re potentially signing away the in-depth insight you have into how your content is consumed and potentially becoming the buyer yourself when you need to obtain this information from whatever entity is now controlling this space in your publication. Instead you should be combining the analytics you gain from various campaigns running on your own site and combining effective native advertising with banner buys and the like, proving to your clients why a truly customized product will beat out the “off-the-shelf” product networks have the potential to turn into.


Successful native ads are not solely based on analytics, but on the different ways they can be implemented. Successful sponsored content studios aren’t churning out spreadsheets all day, but developing new and unique ways to serve sponsored content based on the layout and format of the publication. Different placements, different sections, videos – don’t limit yourself to one simple sponsored page.

For whatever reason the industry seems content to rest with a simple execution with native ads: Headline, link, picture, and copy. It’s a network’s prerogative to keep things simple, making it easier for their sales teams and developers. Don’t fall for it. Keep inventing new ways to serve native instead.

Now that you know why native works, tailor your sponsored content efforts around these proven pillars of native ads.

To see some of the data and analytics we use to determine trends in native advertising, please visit our industry benchmarks site:

Kunal Gupta is the CEO of Polar (formerly Polar Mobile), a computer software firm based in Toronto. Polar originally focused on mobile, but has rebranded to expand its mission, now specializing in native ads. He has been recognized as a Top 30 Under 30, a United Nations Global Citizen and Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Look for his post on The Makegood the third Wednesday of each month.



  • bwagy

    Couldn’t agree more, we had a campaign with three pieces of content – two were banged out fast, the other had more time and attention. Naturally it performed the best – it’s just a good reminder to up the game in the quality of work.