Advertorials have become a popular marketing strategy that blends advertising and editorial content. They are an effective way to deliver marketing messages to consumers without the hard sell approach that is typical of traditional advertising.
Advertorials can take many forms, such as articles, web pages, videos, or movies, and they are labeled as “sponsored content” or “paid advertisement” in media placements. However, the subtle nature of advertorials and their non-intrusive approach to advertising have raised some ethical concerns. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of advertorials, how they can be used for promotion, and best practices for creating effective advertorials.
What is an advertorial?
Advertorial is a linguistic portmanteau, which blends “advertisement” and “editorial” into a single word. An advertorial is an ad installed into the main content more or less seamlessly, which can be an article, webpage, video, or movie:
Advertorials are paid ads that are to nudge the user into taking an action, instead of hard-selling the product. They infiltrate the consciousness, if you will, and influence them to make a purchase, leaving the customer to think it was their voluntary decision.
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There is an ongoing debate about whether advertorial and native ads are the same thing. The difference is so subtle and situational that we will treat them as the same or at least closely related. Both take a U-sharp turn from traditional advertising, by not requiring smart slogans, attractive models, or catchy music. Instead, they convey the information but are free from the main principles of journalism, like being objective and delivering balanced reports. Strictly speaking, though, an explicit, non-native advertorial is possible.
Advertorial pros and cons
Broadly speaking, any product of culture may be considered an advertorial. For example, any racing movie, e.g., Fast and Furious, is bound to promote cars. Realistic First-Person Shooters usually feature certain firearms and military gizmos. Even a journal with the Eiffel Tower can be viewed as a tourist-spurring media channel. However, nobody screams out how “irritating” these ads tend to be. This fact, alongside the following characteristics, makes the advertorials to stand out:
- Non-intrusive — the advertorials leave a good impression and can go viral, provided they are done right
- Efficient — their non-intrusive character make them look like an integral part of the content, but the advertorials do their advertising job quietly nonetheless
- Informative — they have few restrictions, like matching the context, which is why the marketers can elaborate on the product features
- Creativity-spurring — few limitations allow playing around with the format and delivery manner, e.g., a pre-land article from a satisfied customer about a nutra product
- Immune to ad blocking — since advertorials are an integral part of the content, no current ad blocker is able to detect and remove it, without blocking the content itself
- Universal — among all the traffic sources, advertorials (native ads) are allowed in 99% offers
Advertorials remain invisible as long as they are few in numbers. There is a vague borderline, and once it is crossed, the users will get enraged for being sold to. This in turn ruins the reputation of both the advertiser and publisher. After all, how can you trust a web resource that is actively sponsored to create non-objective content?
Let’s not forget about the ethical aspect of the matter. You probably have heard the influencers being proclaimed as sell-outs by the fans for putting paid ads in their content. In the worst case scenario, this can end up in a dilemma for an influencer of whether to promote the product they dislike but paid for or to remain humble but poor.
Advertorials for promotion
Speaking of opinion leaders, advertorials can use various media channels for promotion, e.g., influence marketing, video advertising, and listicles. Heck, even by including these links in the article, we are mimicking the advertorials.
Branded stories work better for mobile users. Also, advertorials tend to create a long-lasting impression, facilitating brand recalling. Advertorials ought to match the context they are put into. Otherwise, they will look like a mainstream hard-sell ad. It is desirable for them to be native, but an honest confession about an ad integration might pan out in your favor too — at least that can surprise the user. There are a few characteristics of a good advertorial:
- Organic — an advertorial mimics the article/ video/ website, which is why even if explicitly stated as an ad, they have to look or sound as an integral part of content
- Relevant — stick to the topic and ambiance or suffer the dire consequences of the users feeling misled and deceived
- Valuable — know your audience, communicate in their language, structure the advertorial to make it more relevant to them
- High quality — eradicate any grammar errors, keep the language as plain and simple as possible, add bullet points for page-scanning, and facilitate user-experience
- Visual — advertorial and library are not synonyms, so make sure to complement your ads with high-resolution images to deliver the message with even greater precision
- Humble — there is nothing shameful in having an advertorial in your content, so why not to mention it and gain more trust with your audience?
Depending on the ad format, the route to make an advertorial will look different. In case of influence marketing, it is best to give a general direction to the influencer and leave the details to the content creator. After all, the audience there enjoys the manner of speech and content delivery, before anything else. By messing up with the presentation character, you are endangering your ad campaigns.
If you like taking the matter in your own hands, you can write an article, comparing several antivirus programs, blood sugar pills, insurance policies — anything. This will serve as your pre-lander. Prioritize the product to be promoted by putting it on top of the ranking, considering the users will most likely stop scrolling after seeing the first available solution to their problems. Make sure to add an exact call-to-action, so the users will not get lost along the funnel.
Advertorials are paid ads that blend into the main content and are designed to nudge the user into taking an action, rather than hard-selling the product. They are efficient, informative, creativity-spurring, immune to ad-blocking, and universal, among other characteristics. However, if advertorials are overused, they may become irritating and ruin the reputation of the advertiser and publisher. It is crucial to match the advertorial with the context and make them valuable, high quality, and visual. Advertorials can take multiple forms, from a video ad integration to a top-10 article.