Native ads are all you hear about in media properties these days, thanks in no small part to big pubs like BuzzFeed wholeheartedly embracing the format, and Twitter and Facebook trying it out, too. Native ads tend to resemble the advertorial of old or, in other words, sponsored content that lives alongside and often closely resembles editorial stuff. Toronto’s Polar (formerly Polar Mobile) is launching a product to capitalize on the interest in native ads.
Native ads were part of Polar’s earlier MediaEverywhere cross-platform publishing efforts, but the company has seen a lot of interest from publishers wanting to use it as a standalone product, hence the decision to unbundle it and launch it separately. The platform allows companies to get reporting on native ads, but Polar CEO and founder Kunal Gupta says that’s just “table stakes” at this stage; the real value is in providing something that acts in every way like an advertising platform to advertisers and publishers, integrated perfectly with existing CMS installs, and results in content that looks and feels like editorial to end users.
The types of ads MediaVoice can create include sponsored stories, videos, photo galleries and outbound content, and integrates with existing ad platforms like DoubleClick. It adapts to the look and feel of the publisher’s site automatically once installed, and offers both self-serve ad creation and real-time analytics on all aspects of ad performance, above and beyond CTRs alone. Launch partners include The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and other high-profile Canadian media companies, and Gupta says American partners will be introduced later this month.
As for why companies that may have existing advertorial departments need something new for the age of content marketing, Gupta says it’s about adapting to a very changed landscape and helping publishers address their growing need for digital and mobile revenues.
“For the user, [content marketing] has to look and feel like content for them to engage, and what’s happening today is the publisher’s treating it like a piece of content, like they do editorial content, as well as the advertisers treating it like content,” he said. “What needs to happen for it to actually scale is that the publisher and the advertiser need to think of it as an ad, and the user needs to think of it as content.”
Gupta says MediaVoice offers that, providing the same benefits as any kind of digital ad product, including banner ads, video ads and more for content marketing pieces, while also focusing on integration with existing ad servers that give publishers the ability to run multiple campaigns with multiple creatives through the same position, something that doesn’t happen if you’re running these types of things through a standard publishing CMS.
Content marketing is bound to bring up questions of just how thin a line should exist between editorial content and sponsored stuff or ads, but it’s impossible to deny that publishers are hungry for new revenue streams, and this seems to be one that has promise in the especially hard-to-monetize realm of mobile. Polar’s repositioning along these lines — including the name change, which reflects its new focus on serving content everywhere, not just on mobile — is a good strategy to capitalize on market trends.