Writing Advertorials

Advertorials are a clever sales vehicle that blends the best of an editorial with the best features of an advertisement. Traditionally the advertorial was a print format used to build easy credibility among an audience or prospective clients. You’ve likely seen these sales vehicles in publications like Parade magazine, the Wall Street Journal and even in your local newspaper. But they are also useful for selling online.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “advertorial” formally entered the lexicon in 1946, but there are examples of very good “advertorials” prior to this.

Many of the most well-known copywriters have employed advertorials very effectively. Clayton Makepeace over and over again extols the virtues of an advertorial for selling and he uses these formats regularly.

The advantages to using an advertorial: people don’t immediately identify it as a sales pitch like they do a sales letter. Folks generally know a sales letter when they see one, but if you are subtle with an advertorial you can make sales before anyone ever knows they’ve been convinced (or sold) to buy something, sign up for something or take some other action.

The key to successful advertorial writing is to avoid bias and build some newsworthiness and/or buzz-worthiness into the piece. An advertorial actually builds trust with prospective customers. Advertorial features can be applied to white papers and reports, newsletters, how-to pieces, and many other types of informational copy.

Advertorials and the Law

Once upon a time a writer could get away with crafting a good advertorial and not have to worry about the legal ramifications of this type of advertising. Times have changed. You must make it very clear to readers when using this type of “objective” essay style that your advertorial is, in fact, an advertisement. In the last half of 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published strict guidelines regarding the disclosure of affiliate sales tactics and other types of online advertising that could be construed to be “objective.” Advertorials fall under these guidelines.