Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Advertorial Schmadvertorial: Words for Sale

Some people are confused by the word "advertorial." Those who aren't confused may be irritated! But for ad departments at daily newspapers, advertorial can be the best thing since sliced bread that can help keep revenues on an even keel in iffy times.

The word "advertorial" is a blending of the words "editorial" and "advertising." Some bigger papers have advertorial departments that fall within the advertising department. The ad staff develop advertising sections ranging from auto to business to bridal to real estate to holiday themes, but instead of only being filled with ads, they contain advertorial copy.

If this is locally generated, it probably has advertisers featured within it. Sometimes advertorial sections run specials -- Buy a (minimum size, say 1/2-page) ad, get an advertorial piece free! Buy a full-page ad, get an advertorial story AND a picture free!! They don't always guarantee the story and ad will run in the same area, because that can be hard to do, depending on the layout. Also, different placement can maximize the impact.

The copy is usually designed to complement the section's themes. Done right, advertorial looks and reads great and feels like authentic editorial copy, giving the piece tremendous credibility and authority. Done poorly, some publications put out cheesy advertorial copy, or print nearly verbatim the clunky press releases the clients give them.

A great advertorial story is informative, adheres to good writing standards, and is a pleasure to read. It's also often the best bargain an advertiser can get in the paper in terms of exposure.

Ad clients may get authority to look over the advertorial copy ahead of time -- it's pretty common, since it's purely a function of advertising, but generally the newspaper's advertorial staff maintain final control so standards can be adhered to. The best scenario is that the person in charge of advertorial has real paper experience.

At bigger dailies, advertorial writing is often shopped out to freelancers. I was advertorial editor for a daily newspaper and then advertorial director for a small newspaper group about 12 years ago. For the daily, I did much of the advertorial writing myself; at the news group, I had two advertorial writers on staff plus we used freelance.

While advertorial can help keep revenues on an even keel in iffy times, there are whole editorial departments up in arms about advertorial. The biggest concern is that uninformed readers will read it an assume it's regular editorial copy. It does need to be differentiated lest readers get confused and think they can buy regular editorial space, etc. (They get confused anyway, but making the distinction helps.) Frequently the section or each page bears the note "An Advertorial Section of the Blablabla Herald."

In a bigger paper, regular staff writers will not be asked to mess with advertorial, as a general rule. The smaller the newspaper, the more likely regular editorial staff will have to play some part in advertorial.

On occasion, when lines blur, thanks to editorial and advertorial departmental plate tectonics, writers or editors may get caught in the middle and it's not pretty.

Two attitudes seem to prevail in many editorial departments. Writers and editors often either look at advertorial with contempt, or with gratitude that it brings in revenue and that they don't have to mess with it. -- J. Louise Larson http://writingporch.blogspot.com/

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