What Is an Advertorial?

What Is an Advertorial?

The term advertorial refers to an article, webpage, or video that is designed to look and read like objective journalistic content but is, in fact, a paid advertisement. The primary objective of an advertorial is to market a company's products, enhance its reputation, or promote its views even though it may contain useful information. Mainstream media companies that publish advertorials require that they be labeled as advertisements.

Key Takeaways

  • An advertorial is paid advertisement designed to resemble an article, video, or webpage.
  • An advertorial may contain useful information, but its ultimate goal is to promote a product.
  • Advertorials can generate effective reader engagement and can be more effective than ordinary ads.
  • Advertorials raise ethical questions for publishers, particularly if there is a perceived conflict of interest between the client and the audience.
  • Advertorials also run the risk of alienating the consumer, especially if they appear too much like an advertisement.

Understanding Advertorials

Advertorials are a sharp departure from traditional advertising as they don't rely on catchy slogans, attractive models, or cheerful music. Instead, they convey information, but they aren't bound by journalistic principles requiring objectivity or balanced reporting.

Because advertorials can provide useful and interesting information, consumers may pay them greater attention than they would traditional ads. Advertorials also provide the opportunity to include significantly more information about a product or service’s benefits than a traditional ad, which is heavy on images and light on text.

There is some evidence that advertorials can be more effective than traditional display ads, at least on the web and on mobile devices. Advertorials, which can also be referred to as native ads, receive twice the visual focus of banner ads, according to a Nielsen study. That is, the eye gaze of consumers focused more intently on the native ads than on the banner ads.

Many publications indicate when content is an advertorial to avoid misleading readers. The advertorial will appear alongside the publication’s regular content or as a supplement to it. But it may be labeled sponsored or special advertising section. Some publications don't print advertorials at all.

The word advertorial combines the words advertisement and editorial. The newer term native advertising was coined to distinguish advertorial content from display advertising.

Special Considerations

As with traditional advertisements, when companies use advertorials to promote a product or service, they must make sure the ad has the right tone and content for the consumer audience. So an advertorial that appears in a financial magazine or on a science news site will have a different tone than an advertorial in a celebrity gossip magazine.

Advertorial content typically mimics a publication’s editorial style in the way headlines are written, the type of font used, the layout, and the illustrations. They often draw the reader in by telling a story that draws upon a reader’s problems or fears and then describing how a product or service can solve the issue. The advertorial may support the assertions with statistics, test results, and relevant facts. Facts that don't support their claims are omitted.

The advertorial often concludes with a call to action that informs the reader how and where to purchase the product or service.

Advertorial vs. Sponsorship Content

Advertorial content is not the same as sponsored content. Most publications and programs accept advertising in order to defray the costs of their programming. The content is produced independently.

Advertisers choose to be associated with certain programs or publications by paying to have their messages aired during a program or published alongside editorial content, and the two are clearly distinguished. The advertisers have no input into the actual editorial content.

That said, cable television and YouTube have led to an explosive growth of longer, more elaborate, and more entertaining infomercials. They are, in fact, program-length infomercials that may reach an audience on their own merits.

Warning

The Federal Trade Commission requires publishers to clearly identify paid or advertorial content.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Advertorials

Advantages

Advertorials allow brands to engage their target market or audience without tipping them off to the fact that they are consuming paid copy. Since people are naturally suspicious of advertising, they may be more likely to engage with marketing copy if it appears in the form of an ordinary article or video. Depending on the product, a well-designed advertorial may generate more business leads for a lower price than ordinary advertising.

Advertorials are also likely to attract more readers than ordinary ads, especially if those readers use ad-blocking software. Once readers are engaged, an advertorial can also go into greater detail about the advantages of a specific product, which is not possible on ordinary banner ads. If the content is especially strong, they may even share it on social media.

Disadvantages

One major disadvantage to this approach is that, if an advertorial pushes too hard, it may leave the reader with a negative impression of both the brand and the publication. False or exaggerated statements may likewise discredit the brand. If a magazine is perceived as relying on paid content, it may alienate a large share of its audience, ultimately losing both readers and advertisers.

There are also regulatory risks. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that publishers clearly identify paid content, including online content. Google has also cracked down on paid ads where the relationship is not disclosed to the reader.

Pros
  • Can be more engaging and less expensive than traditional advertisements

  • Engaged readers can learn about advantages of certain products

  • Can penetrate ad blockers and other software

Cons
  • Readers may feel they are being sold to by content providers

  • May discredit publications that rely heavily on advertorials

  • Ethical questions may arise for the publisher, especially when not disclosed

How to Write an Advertorial

One of the most important rules of advertorial writing is to avoid being too promotional. An advertorial is intended to engage the reader as if it were an ordinary article. Nobody is going to be convinced by an article that leads with a hard sell.

A well-written advertorial should fit in with the publication in which it appears, mimicking the editorial tone and style of the other content. It is also important to provide value to the reader. As such, a sufficiently engaging advertorial may even generate organic hits from social media and search engines. Once the reader is sufficiently engaged, it is possible to end by informing the readers how to buy a product or service.

So what's the best way to write a good advertorial? Here are a few tips that can help get the ball rolling:

  • Stay on topic. Nothing turns a reader/viewer off than loading up your content with irrelevant details. Since advertorials emulate journalism, you should stick to the same sort of principles. Running off topic doesn't bode well for your readers and it certainly won't get results for you.
  • Make sure your content has and adds value. Knowing your audience means you'll have a better grasp of how to structure and write your advertorial. So if you're writing an advertorial for a younger audience, you'll want your copy to get your point across to that demographic. This includes tailoring your language and structure to that specific market.
  • Don't skimp on quality. Just like the content that it's complementing, your advertorial should be fully edited and well structured. This means putting up content free from errors and formatting using a style that makes it reader-friendly. Understanding what keeps readers on the page helps, including bullet points and lists.
  • Use visual aids. This is key since you probably won't get anywhere with just copy. Make sure there are visuals to break up written advertorials with photos, videos, infographics, and other visual assets. These add a lot of value for readers, especially in today's age. And remember that your visual content should also be high quality. Dropping in a low-resolution video is neither effective nor professional.
  • Make sure you're transparent. Let your audience know that they're reading and/or watching an advertorial. You can do this by mentioning that it's an ad or that it's sponsored somewhere on your piece.

Guidelines and Requirements for Advertorials

As we've already mentioned, there are certain rules about advertorials. The Federal Trade Commission requires that any advertorials are placed separately from any other content. It may confuse readers if it's embedded with editorial content.

The FTC also requires transparency when it comes to advertorials. That's because they may be structured to look like editorial content, which, again, may confuse certain readers. You can do this by marking it as an ad or as sponsored content. You can mark them as ads or sponsored links somewhere on the page or video.

Google and Advertorials

The FTC isn't the only entity that sets rules on advertorials. Google has its own set of guidelines that can either help you reach your audience or get your site pulled down from the search engine's index.

Here are some of the most common things to remember about how advertorials rank when it comes to Google:

  • Clearly distinguish advertorials from regular content. But also make sure it's separated from other editorial content, such as guest articles. Some of the latter articles may often contain links or sponsorships that may conflate the editorial section.
  • Just like the FTC, advertisements of any kind need to be clearly identified as such. The reader needs to know exactly what they're looking at so they know they're not being railroaded.
  • Ensuring that advertising links don't affect page rankings on the search engine. Adding specific coding can help make this type of content distinct from others.

Examples of Advertorials

Here are two examples to show how advertorials work.

The image below is a screenshot from an article found on CNN.com:

Screenshot of paid partnered content from CNN.com

As you can see from the page, advertorials are clearly marked as paid partnered content and are separated from the editorial content with a teal border. All of the paid content appears underneath that line.

Similar advertorials appear on the Condé Nast Traveler website. As you can see from the image below, they are marked as sponsored stories and appear at the bottom of the editorial content.

Screenshot of sponsored stories on Condé Nast Traveler

What's the Definition of an Advertorial?

An advertorial is paid advertising that is designed to look like journalistic content. It can come in print or video form in traditional media or online. Advertorials are designed to reach a specific target market to sell products and services. They also help enhance the advertiser's reputation or push their views and beliefs. Regulators require that advertorials are clearly marked as such so readers and viewers aren't confused about their intent.

Are Advertorials Ethical?

Advertorials raise ethical questions for publishers, especially if the paid content is viewed as contrary to the audience's values. There are also legal requirements to clearly identify paid content. Most publications have editorial policies on advertorial content, and many publishers refuse to run advertorials at all.

Which Markets Convert Best Using Advertorials?

Due to the number of factors that go into a successful conversion, it is difficult to establish a direct line between advertorials and sales. One study, commissioned by Mode Media, found that mobile users were more likely to show intent to purchase than desktop users. The same study found that people exposed to branded stories showed 77% brand recall.

Another study on advertorial copy length, from High Point University, found that advertorials generated better ad and brand attitudes for female viewers than they did for males. The same study found that "lighter" copy lengths tended to improve brand attitudes for female subjects more than they did for males.

How Much Does Advertorial Advertising Cost?

A study by Harvard Business Review found that the average cost for a native advertising campaign cost $54,014, with lower-tier publications costing anywhere between $70 and $8,000. Although the number of leads generated tended to correlate with the cost of the campaign, researchers did not observe significant gains above $50,000.

How Do You Write an Advertorial?

There are a few key things that you have to keep in mind if you want to write an effective editorial. Following these steps can set you apart from others:

  1. Remain on topic.
  2. Add value to your content by knowing your audience and how to write to it.
  3. Focus on quality content that's well-structured and tailored to your audience.
  4. Add visual aids to drive your message.
  5. Be transparent about your intentions. Tell your reader it's an advertorial.

The Bottom Line

Advertorials are an easy way to introduce a brand to consumers without a hard sell or annoying pop-up ads. By blending promotional and informative content, advertisers can engage with consumers while also creating value for the readers. Once engaged, a well-crafted advertorial can attract more leads at a lower cost than typical display ads.

However, any paid content runs the risk of alienating the audience, especially if the sales pitch appears heavy-handed. Readers may lose trust in a publisher which regularly uses advertorials, especially if those advertorials rely on false or exaggerated claims. When it comes to advertorials, it is important to focus on engaging the consumer before you try to sell them a product.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Sharethrough. "A Neuroscience Perspective: Assessing Visual Focus, Message Processing & The Ability to Strengthen Associations Through Mobile Advertising."

  2. Federal Trade Commission. "Native Advertising: A Guide for Businesses."

  3. Google. "A reminder about selling links that pass PageRank."

  4. Google Search Central. "Webmaster guidelines."

  5. MODE. "NIELSEN STUDY COMMISSIONED BY MODE MEDIA REVEALS BRANDED CONTENT BEST PRACTICES."

  6. Atlantic Marketing Journal. "The Effect of Advertorial Format and Copy Length on Attitudes of Female (Target) and Male (Non-Target) Audiences," Page 47.

  7. Harvard Business Review. "Comparing the ROI of Content Marketing and Native Advertising."