Have you ever read an article in a magazine or newspaper only to discover that you are actually reading an advertisement in disguise? Welcome to the world of advertorials! An advertorial is an advertisement written and designed to mimic the editorial in a magazine or newspaper. It's a combination of advertisement and editorial, hence adver-torial.
Most reputable publications clearly identify advertorials as such. Often you'll see the words “advertisement,” “advertising supplement,” or “sponsored section” on the top of the page or section. In addition, some publications also insist that advertorials be set in a different typeface and layout style to further distinguish it from the main editorial.
Because it appears to be an article, readers assume it contains useful information — and the best usually do — which is why advertorials tend to have a much higher readership than traditional advertising.
That doesn't mean that advertorials are any less sales oriented. They do need to get results in terms of leads and sales. But advertorials tend to explain rather than pitch, which makes this approach seem softer and less “hard sell” than traditional ads.
An advertorial can be any size, from a fraction of a page to several pages (as part of a special advertising supplement). Here are some useful advertorial writing tips:
Write it in article format. Don't make it sound like an ad or a sales letter. An advertorial should be interesting and informative; just what you'd expect from any other article.
Read the publication. Unless the guidelines forbid this, write the advertorial in the same style, tone, and format as the publication it will be published in.
Use success stories. Case studies and product success stories work extremely well as advertorials.
“How to” tips work well. Any practical strategies that the reader can use to solve problems, make decisions, do his or her job better, make more money, or achieve specific objectives are very effective.
Use quotes. Instead of just explaining problems and the products and services that solve them, convey this information in quotes from key people in the company or from customers. For example: “‘Upgrade burnout is a serious issue among software users,’ says John Smith, Director of User Documentation. ‘That's why we now include six training DVDs that make it easy to…'”
Don't forget the “ad” in advertorial. It may look like an article, but it isn't. So close with a strong call to action — ideally a compelling offer — that motivates the reader to take the next step.
The toughest part of writing an advertorial is striking the right balance between providing useful information — the editorial part — and carefully weaving in the sales messages — the advertising part. Too far on the editorial side and the advertorial won't do its selling job. Too far toward the advertising side and readers will be turned off and won't read it at all.