What you need to know about advertorial

Have you ever sent out a press release only to have someone from the publication call and ask you if you’d like to place an advertisement?

Frustrating isn’t it? You’ve given them a story that would surely enhance the editorial content of their publication, but they still want your advertising dollars.

Advertorial is magazine or newspaper content that looks like objective editorial but is in some way endorsed by the business or organisation being written about – usually through placing an ad or paying for the editorial space.

Some publications are completely up front about this: they will only run editorial about you if you pay for an ad. Others will give priority in their editorial pages to advertisers, although they won’t guarantee coverage.

Here’s an explanation of the various kinds of advertorial you may come across:

  1. You can book advertorial in exactly the same way as you’d book an ad. The advertorial is written and designed by you, so readers can tell that it’s not a standard editorial piece. The cost depends on size, just like an ad (e.g. half page, full page, double page etc).
  2. You can write the advertorial and have it designed by the publisher’s in-house designers. This will make the advertorial fit with the style of the publication, but it will still look slightly different or be labelled as ‘advertorial’. The publication may charge you for both the space and the design cost.
  3. Most publications will have their own staff write and design the advertorial. This means you don’t have complete control over what is written, or the style in which it is written or designed, but you do have the opportunity to approve content before it is published. This type of advertorial will look more like editorial in the magazine, using similar fonts, editorial tone, style etc. The publication may charge you for the space, the design cost and the editorial cost. Others will have different ways of costing this type of content, so make sure you know what you’re getting, what the charges are for and how much control you will have over the finished piece.
  4. Instead of paying for the advertorial space, you place an ad in the publication, and receive editorial space as part of the deal. This is strictly advertorial, although it is likely to be created in-house, sometimes using content supplied by you.
  5. With online publications becoming more popular, new rules are emerging. For example, one online magazine plans to allow advertisers to place a link in their ads to editorial about them. So a feature may appear in one issue only, but all subsequent ads can link to it, bringing the content up again in later editions.

Advertorial is a contentious issue, because it means that the editorial isn’t strictly objective – it has a promotional intention behind it. Some publications, such as Australian Traveller, don’t run any kind of advertorial. They don’t even accept invitations to experience tours or accommodation, because they believe that editorial written on that basis is biased.

Advertorial can certainly be damaging when it isn’t handled well. I have seen articles that are clearly supplied by an advertiser, and they are so badly written and so blatantly promotional that no self-respecting reader would waste their time reading on. This can work against you, creating an impression of incompetence and suggesting a lack of respect for the intelligence of your audience. Don’t be tempted to do it.

On the other hand, I have seen businesses spend money on advertising in order to receive a fabulous feature that comes across as pure editorial. For them, it’s worth the spend.

A good editor working with an established advertorial policy will always ensure that advertorial is clearly labelled, and is useful and relevant to the readership. Because in the end, if the readers get nothing from the story, the publication as a whole loses out. And it’s in the best interest of the advertisers to see good editorial content in the same publication. So check out the publications you are sending your release to, and make sure the editorial content is good quality.

At PublicityShip we don’t get involved in advertorial deals as we believe that authentic, objective editorial more effective than advertising. While our clients are completely at liberty to buy space for their story, we try our best to achieve editorial coverage without the need to pay for the space.

One Response to “What you need to know about advertorial”

  1. […] Even when you have a great story, there’s a good chance your press release will be passed to the advertising department who will try to sell you ad space or advertorial. […]

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