Let me tell you a story

Advertorial copywritingI hadn’t written an advertorial for a while, but following a discussion with a client we decided it was the most appropriate device for what they were looking to achieve.

See my last blog post for a case study of that project.

Advertorials combine advertisement with editorial. They allow the advertiser to use more text than perhaps they would normally employ in a conventional advert.

An advertorial is designed to look like a genuine article or feature. It should adopt a style, layout and tone of voice in keeping with the rest of the magazine or website.

In the UK, it’s a requirement of the Advertising Standards Authority that advertorials in printed publications must be clearly labelled as such. They should not mislead the reader. Magazines will generally use a header such as ‘special promotional feature’ or ‘special advertising section’ at the top of the advertorial page.

I don’t think this detracts from the value of an advertorial. Nowadays, readers are savvy enough to know the difference between an independent, editorially-led feature and an advertiser-led feature. Readers appreciate that advertorials are used by advertisers to give more information than they would usually include in a traditional magazine ad.

Advertorials have also been appearing on websites recently, although this has caused some controversy. The same rules of disclosure apply online. The reader should be fully aware that what they're reading is ‘paid for’ content.

Links in advertorials are not allowed to impact on search engine rankings. Google will penalise webmasters if they don’t use a rel="no follow" as paid for links should not pass PageRank.

Where to begin

The best advertorials tell a story. A before and after photo. A personal account of the difference something has made to someone’s life. An advertorial should be a vignette rather than a whole novel.

Firstly, decide on your sales focus. Is it your company name, brand or a particular product or service? Then decide on the publication or site.

As mentioned, the style of the advertorial should fit in with the house style of the publication or website. This should be taken into account when deciding on the theme of the advertorial.

The story unfolds

Then decide on how your story should unfold. Try one of the following:

  • Tell a personal anecdote
  • Show a before and after photo
  • Profile a member of staff
  • Explain how a product or service works
  • Display facts and figures in a quirky way

Photos with a short caption are eye-catching. Quotes will add human interest. Facts and figures should be portrayed in a lively manner, not just listed.

A happy ending

Steer away from overt selling in an advertorial as it detracts from the story. Avoid mentioning anything salesy in the main body. It should read like a real feature or article, not a company promotion.

There is no need to include prices or a strapline. The most effective way to end an advertorial is with a clear call to action. Simply direct your reader to the next step.

The happy ending comes when they call your number or visit your website or premises.

Related post: Case studies: the advertorial