May 2009
Copywriting Curiosities
Write Better Marketing Copy Now!
In This Issue
Advertorial Know-How
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Recent Work:

Here's the landing page for Slimband's advertorial, which you can also read (where it says "Download Report" on the right). 

Here's a website I wrote for Mary Ann Morse Nursing & Rehab Center. Check it out  here

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Dear Robyn,

Hope you're enjoying the spring. I'm giving a lot of info below, so let's get right to it.

Advertorial Know-How
There's a type of advertising that you might not know much about, but it's one that can work well with a wide variety of products and services. It's called an advertorial.

What is an advertorial?
The word itself--advertorial--is a portmanteau, combining the words "advertisement" and "editorial." It's essentially an ad dressed to look like an editorial or news article. All advertorials have a disclaimer--usually located right above it--saying that it's a paid advertisement.

Why are advertorials effective?
Despite the disclaimer, they're incredibly effective because of the layout and content. In terms of design, they look just like the other articles in the publication. In terms of content, they're written with a journalistic style using quotes, facts, and statistics. This combination proves persuasive since someone casually reading the publication might assume it's another news article.

Please note: I'm one of the biggest supporters of transparency and truth in advertising. I can understand why some people might find this form of advertising to be deceptive, but I feel as long as the disclaimer is prominently displayed and all the content in the advertorial is accurate and can be supported, then it's up to the reader to discern whether he or she accepts the ad (or notices that it is an ad). I do believe we consumers hold some responsibility in the decisions we make.

Advertorials work well for certain services and products because the advertorial provides a platform to make an argument for your product much in the same way an infomercial does--but it's cheaper (and perhaps more "respectable"?) than an infomercial.

Here are some product categories that lend themselves well to advertorials (this isn't an exhaustive list):
  • Health (think vitamin and weight loss supplements)
  • Beauty (think skin treatments and hair-loss products)
  • Pets (think specialty foods and specialty products, such as beds)
  • Crafts (think knitting or model cars)
  • Hand-crafted, one of a kind items (think jewelry and wood work)
You could make an argument for many more product categories, but these are the ones off the top of my head.

So let's dig deeper. Let's think beauty. Maybe you sell a skim cream that diminishes wrinkles or perhaps you have an acne system that's ten times better than Proactiv. Think about what your potential customers read and get in front of them in the form of an advertorial (as opposed to a regular ad).

Let's think knitting. Maybe you raise alpacas and produce the finest alpaca yarn for knitting. There are knitting magazines out there--get in front of your potential customers with an advertorial.

As you can see, the way you think about placing an advertorial is no different than the way you think about placing a traditional print ad. And it doesn't have to be just magazines. Daily and weekly newspapers often run advertorials, too.

Advertorial make-up:
An advertorial should be written in much the same way a news article is written:
  • Write in third person
  • Use headlines and sub headlines
  • Write a lead paragraph that hooks the reader
  • Weave in reputable stats and facts
  • Use quotes and testimony from real people
And guess what else? The main body of the advertorial itself will not be promoting your company. You'll do this at the end with the call to action, but the body of the advertorial won't be a flagrant promotion of your product. It needs to read like a regular news article.

Hypothetical example:
To understand what I mean, let's consider the example I use above about the alpacas.

Let's say you own Lucy's Alpaca Farm and you produce alpaca yarn that you sell on line. The advertorial will not be about Lucy's Alpaca Farm and all the yarn you produce. The advertorial will be about why alpaca yarn is the best yarn for knitting and why it's worth buying.

The lead paragraphs might read something like this:

Did you know the clothing made from alpacas is hypoallergenic and warmer than wool? Well, neither did Mary Smith until she discovered it when she was researching an alternative to wool on the Internet.

"I love to knit, but I'm allergic to wool, so I was surprised to find that alpaca yarn doesn't make me itch! And it's so much softer, too," says Mary.

The advertorial should then be filled with more interesting--i.e. persuasive--facts about alpaca yarn in comparison to the other types of yarn knitters typically work with. The final paragraphs can be about Lucy's Alpaca Farm along with a call to action and incentive that encourages people to visit a certain landing page on your website.

Getting an advertorial up and running: steps & strategies:

Advertorial placement:
  • What do your customers read in terms of newspapers/magazines? Those are the places you want to target.
  • Once you have a short list, contact the sales department (easily found on the mast ahead and usually on the pub's website under "advertising") and ask for the advertorial rate card and ask about any other requirements. I wrote an advertorial for a surgical weight-loss procedure and come to find out the publication the client wanted to run the advertorial in wouldn't run it unless some of the medical claims were validated by certain federal health offices.
  • When you talk to the sales rep, ask about the publication's demographics (which will either confirm your assumptions about who's reading the pub--or it will alert you that you're way off base)
Advertorial creation:
  • Who will write the advertorial? Advertorial copywriters are out there. If you're wondering what comes first, the writing or the placement, it's the placement. You'll want to firm up where you're running the advertorial and what the demographics, specs, and deadlines are before the writer starts writing because the writer will need this information. I can't tell you how many people contact me and want to do this backwards. How can I write an advertorial if we don't know the audience? "Female" is not enough.
  • What's the goal of your advertorial (what's the call-to-action)?
  • What metrics do you have in place to measure the advertorial's effectiveness? At the very least, you'll want to have a dedicated landing page for the advertorial. Make sure you test it and have conversion goals set up throughout the page. Getting people to the page isn't enough. What do you want them to do next? Are you offering a special?
Advertorial resources:
The best thing you can do is read about how to craft effective advertorials (and study them whenever you come across them). Here are two resources to check out:
I invite you to browse through some of my advertorials. Need help writing your advertorial? Email me today!

Portions of this article appeared on Blue Acorn's blog. Blue Acorn is an eCommerce consulting company based out of South Carolina.
Hope you had a great Memorial Day Weekend. Bring on summer! See you next month.

Robyn Bradley
E.T. Robbins Productions
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