James Van Elswyk Native Ads Masterclass Review – Is It Worth Paying For?

by | Jul 27, 2019

About Native Ads Masterclass

Native Ads Masterclass is a course created by James Van Elswyk in association with iStack Training. The course is designed to be an “all-in-one” resource for marketers interested in running Facebook ads. The material ranges from beginner-level to advanced, meaning there is something to learn for everyone.

About James Van Elswyk

James Van Elswyk is a digital marketer that specializes in native advertising. Recently, he’s become more well known through his Purple Knowledge Labs Facebook group, which serves as a community for CPA marketers (primarily focused on native advertising).

James Van Elswyk

Van Elswyk runs a few businesses, one of which is an agency that manages native advertising affiliate campaigns. The agency focuses on media buys across a range of sites like Taboola, Outbrain, and RevContent, and the team specializes in a few core verticals like solar energy and finance. The agency spends over $1 million each month, and boasts impressive stats like a $100,000 day in the solar niche.

James Van Elswyk also runs a lead generation company and a related affiliate program for marketers that specialize in lead generation. It could be argued that Van Elswyk is one of the most recognized marketers in the world of native advertising. He’s one of the first marketers I started following as I expanded from traditional paid media channels like Facebook and Google to native advertising channels like Taboola and Outbrain.

In his course, James Van Elswyk walks students through his entire process and recommends best practices for native advertisers.

Native Ads Masterclass Pricing

The Native Ads Masterclass course is priced at $1,497, making it one of the more expensive native advertising courses. You can find it on sale from time to time, but the course is pricey nonetheless.

The question is, “is it worth it?”

Let’s find out.

Native Ads Masterclass Pricing

Native Ads Masterclass Curriculum

The Native Ads Masterclass course is designed to be a comprehensive course that covers everything marketers need to know about native advertising. The course also expands into general topics related to affiliate marketing, such as affiliate offer selection, budget management, and tracking.

There are 12 separate modules in this course. Let’s review the content in each module.

How to Use This Course

Module 1 simply charts the path for the rest of the course. This module stresses the importance of applying the lessons learned in the upcoming modules. Watching a course won’t be enough to make you a native ads master – you need to practice with your own campaigns.

Basic Understanding

Module 2 starts to lay down the foundation for native advertising. This section discusses some industry jargon, key metrics, and basic tools of the trade. While this section focuses on “basic” content, it’s actually rather enlightening for marketers who are unaware of the methodology behind a native advertising campaign.

Competitor Analysis

Module 3 begins to teach some of the more actionable lessons. From this module forward, the course follows a linear path. James Van Elswyk walks students through the process of researching, planning and executing.

This module starts by explaining the purpose of competitor analysis and follows up by explaining the process. Here are some of the key topics:

  • Why competitor analysis is particularly important in native advertising
  • How to spy on competitors
  • Using spying software
  • What to look for when doing competitive analysis

James Van Elswyk Competitor Analysis

This module teaches a crucial lesson for native advertisers. It stresses the importance of spying (aka competitor research) before you launch a campaign. This gives marketers a head start by allowing them to start with campaigns that are proven to work instead of taking shots in the dark with their own campaigns.

Offers and Traffic

Module 4 discusses the process of looking for high-converting affiliate offers. James discusses a few important considerations such as offer payouts, compliance, offer/network fit, and more.

Native Ads Offers

Native advertisers know that the offer can make or break a campaign, so this is an essential module.

Relationships and Success

Module 5 contains some unique lessons that I didn’t expect to find in a course about native advertising. Van Elswyk discusses the importance of relationships in the world of native advertising. This is the type of module that you couldn’t even think to add unless you’ve had experience in the industry.

I’ll admit that I dismissed the lessons in this module at first. I never found much value in connecting with my Facebook/Google ad reps, but I quickly learned that the native advertising environment is much different. If you want to become a campaign-focused native advertiser (i.e. promoting affiliate offers), you need to develop relationships with the right people. Your affiliate managers and account reps play a big role in your success.

For example, if you create ads on Facebook, you have a lot of targeting options at your disposal. With native advertising, there is a lot more “wasted traffic” since the targeting options are not as precise. By working with your account rep, you can get better targeting options and tips to improve your campaigns.

Publisher Selection

Module 6 discusses publisher selection, which ultimately speaks to targeted traffic generation. This module explains how you can find the best publishers and avoid the worst. Here are some of the key topics:

  • Targeting by topics
  • Bidding strategies
  • Creating blacklists
  • Dealing with bot fraud
  • Choosing placements by device

This module also provides a full walkthrough of setting up tracking with FunnelFlux.

FunnelFlux Tracking Lesson

Funnel Assembly

Module 7 discusses funnel assembly and explains the best practices for the testing phase of a new campaign. This module is essential for advertisers who are new to native advertising because the campaign testing strategies guide the campaign. Once again, this is way different than running a campaign on Facebook or Google.

This module discusses the best ways to split test ad copy, images, landing pages, and offers. These foundational lessons can make or break your campaign’s success, so make sure to review this module closely.

The 3 B’s of Native Advertising

Module 8 introduces the concept of the “three b’s of native advertising.” These are the metrics that native advertisers need to pay attention to when monitoring their campaigns. The three b’s include bankroll, budgets, and bids.

Ultimately, this module focuses on running your campaigns efficiently. There are lessons on bidding strategies, budget management, and more. What I liked best about this module is the specificity of the lessons. Van Elswyk doesn’t just say “you need to preserve your capital.” He shares the exact methodology he uses to control costs and monitor the effectiveness of his campaigns.

Native Advertising Rules

Funnel Optimization

Module 9 begins to focus on the campaign optimization process. James Van Elswyk delivers some golden rules for funnel optimization. He discusses:

  • Testing for statistical significance
  • ROI-based optimization rules
  • When it’s time to kill a landing page, headline, or image

The funnel optimization strategies are unique to native advertising. For example, with search/social PPC, it’s easier to analyze the data to see what is and is not working. With native advertising, your first step is eliminating waste and reducing losses so you can get a clearer picture of what is working.

Publisher Optimization

While module 9 focuses on optimizing your own creatives (i.e. headlines, landing pages, etc.), module 10 discusses best practices for optimizing your placements.

This section builds on the methodology discussed in the previous module, where native marketers should focus on reducing losses. The publisher optimization section discusses strategies for building white lists and black lists for placements, as well as the key metrics that determine whether or not a placement is effective.

Re-optimize and Sharpen the Sword

Module 11 focuses on the continuous optimization process for campaigns that are profitable. This section discusses strategies for lowering CPC’s, optimizing bids, testing new creatives, and more.


The course concludes with a module on the scaling process. Every affiliate marketer knows the importance of scaling, but it’s easier said than done. You may find yourself running a successful campaign with no idea how to increase the campaign’s profitability. You may also struggle to expand into new campaigns.

This section discusses a few of the ways you can scale your efforts and make a career out of native advertising.

Native Ads Masterclass Course Quality

Overall, the Native Ads Masterclass course is produced very well. iStack Training is known for putting out high-quality courses that are well-planned and well-recorded.

This course features professional recordings of James Van Elswyk backed by clean slides and screenshare walkthroughs when necessary.

Does the Course Deliver?

When we broach the topic of whether or not a course delivers, we look at one main thing. Does the course provide what it says it does?

This objective approach is necessary in this space since students may have distorted expectations when they buy a course. Obviously, most people buy marketing courses because they want to make more money, but education doesn’t always guarantee a specific outcome. This is why we look at what a course promises.

The promises made on the landing page for the Native Ads Masterclass are relatively tame. The majority of the promotional material is focused on the educational content itself (vs. bold promises).

That said, there are two statements we’d like to address.

  1. “Earn Low Maintenance Profits”
  2. “Get on your way to $20k native ad days”

Both of these claims are pulled from the Native Ads Masterclass landing page.

Native ads Masterclass claims

While this course is an excellent educational resource for native advertisers, prospective students should know that native advertising is far from “low maintenance” and reaching $20k days is both difficult and rare.

It may seem nit-picky to break down the sales copy but after watching hundreds of courses, we believe it’s always important for students to have proper expectations before going into a course.

Who is the Course Best For?

This course is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to learn how to master native advertising, but there is one caveat:

You need to have a decent amount of capital to run native ads.

Yes, you can open an account with $100 or less, but you will need far more capital if you want to be successful. Testing alone can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars and if your first campaign is not successful, you will need to repeat this process a few times.

It’s not uncommon for native advertisers to spend tens of thousands of dollars before figuring out an effective system. James Van Elswyk himself admits to losing over $65,000 before discovering the system he uses today.

A good course can help you save money and avoid common mistakes, but capital expenditure is just part of the learning and testing process.

If you can’t commit at least $3,000 campaign spend, it wouldn’t be wise to drop $1,497 on a native advertising course.

If you have the bankroll to break into native advertising, this course is HIGHLY recommended. James Van Elswyk is THE authority on native advertising and I don’t know of too many marketers that operate at the same scale as him.

Is the Course Worth the Money?

The answer to this question is similar to the previous one. To summarize, “it depends.”

If you have $5,000 to your name, spending $1,497 on a course can be costly. You may be better off using cheaper or free resources.

This course is worth the money for anyone who expects to spend a lot of money on native advertising. $1,497 seems steep until you realize how fast you can lose money on campaigns by not knowing what you’re doing. A simple lesson can save you thousands of dollars and this course is loaded with actionable insights that will undoubtedly improve the quality of your native advertising campaigns.

Native Ads Masterclass Alternatives

I’ve taken a few native advertising courses with price tags ranging from $20 to $1500 and I’ve found that you get what you pay for.

As mentioned above, if you want to break into the world of native advertising, you need to have a bankroll to back your ambitions. If you plan on spending $20 on a course and a few hundred on testing, you’re unlikely to find success.

Native Ads Masterclass is by far the best native advertising course I’ve watched. If you’re hesitant to cough up the $1,497, I’d recommend starting with some of the free resources online and making your way up to paid forums. The Purple Knowledge Labs Facebook group is a good starting point, as is the Mad Society forum by Malan Darras.

Final Verdict

The Native Ads Masterclass is a comprehensive course produced by one of the leading authorities in the native advertising space. James Van Elswyk runs a successful company that spends millions of dollars on native ad placements. If you’re going to learn about native advertising, learn from the best. This course is highly recommended to anyone who wants to learn more about native advertising.


  • Comprehensive curriculum
  • Actionable insights
  • Insider tips
  • Screenshare walkthroughs


  • Price
  • Lack of specific examples

Andrew Green

Andrew is a successful entrepreneur and lifelong learner. Throughout his career, he has watched hundreds of online courses that have allowed him to achieve success in highly competitive fields such as online marketing, investing, and sales. Andrew is committed to expanding his knowledge and expertise and he reviews the premium courses he watches on his online blog.
Overall Rating: 4.27 out of 5

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