The birds and bees of sponsored content

Why native advertising hit puberty in 2015


By Kunal Gupta, Founder & CEO, Polar

There comes a time in every format’s life where it starts to change or mature. You know what I’m speaking about: the voicing changes, ads appear where there were never ads before – and native advertising is no different.

But puberty is a critical life stage that every new publisher business goes through during its growth phase. It is a process of an idea growing and maturing into a real business. The financial, emotional, people and social changes associated with puberty usually start when the new business generates anywhere between $250,000 and $1-million in annualized revenue. On average, more traditional publishers will develop about 12 months later than digital only publishers.

Each publisher goes through puberty at their own pace and every publisher is different. Puberty changes happen slowly and take several years to complete. It may be a fast process for some people and a more gradual one for others.

Joking aside, I believe that if native advertising was a growing human being, in 2015 it did got through these important stages of development. We have seen the aggregate volume of native ads for premium publishers using our platform skyrocket from 5 Billion to 15 Billion from one year ago today.

The major issue that native advertising had to address to grow past puberty was transparency and disclosure.

From John Oliver’s satirical rant on native advertising, to the FTC saying that some native advertising is unlawful and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association calling out the lack of single responsible party for transparency and disclosure, one year ago there was a lot of fear and worry about how native may be tricking readers.

Well the industry stepped up, with the IAB here in the US updating its native advertising playbook, the IAB in the UK releasing clear guidelines on disclosure, to Publishers talking openly about their transparency principles and the FTC issuing an FAQ on the topic.

Publishers all agree and have implemented transparency for the audience and most importantly, taken responsibility. Responsibility and puberty are connected and this awkward and uncomfortable aspect of puberty was addressed this year as the format matures into the crucial component of publishers’ business it is projected to be.


Kunal Gupta is the Founder & CEO of Polar. He leads a talented team transforming the media publishing industry with technology. Polar provides a technology platform that over 1,500 publishers around the world use to strengthen and grow their digital advertising businesses.