How to write an advertorial to sell a product

March 11, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: How-to Guides 
sample of advertorial

Click picture to see advertorial sample.

If there’s any copywriting project that creates confusion for many of today’s new copywriters, it’s writing an advertorial.

Unlike most advertisements, the advertorial demands a different tone and a certain restraint in how copy is written. It must be less promotional and more “newsy.”

But let’s start at the beginning. What is an advertorial?

Here’s how Wikipedia defines advertorial

An advertorial is an advertisement written in the form of an objective article, and presented in a printed publication—usually designed to look like a legitimate and independent news story. The term “advertorial” is a portmanteau of “advertisement” and “editorial.” Merriam-Webster dates the origin of the word to 1946.

In other words, an advertorial is an ad written to look and sound like editorial matter. With the typical advertisement, you want the ad to jump off the page. But with an advertorial, you want the ad to blend in, as if it’s just another article in the publication.

This may seem counterintuitive, but one of the reasons advertorials work is that people tend to tune out printed ad in the same way they have “banner blindness” online. Advertorials fly under the radar and can draw readers into the copy in the same way that articles do in a newspaper. People reading a publication are looking for things to read, not looking for ads.

Here’s a sample advertorial I wrote over 12 years ago. This is a short advertorial, but most of the basics are included.

  • Attention grabbing headline.
  • Newsy copy that uses an inverted pyramid writing style.
  • Simple layout that looks like other articles in the same publication.
  • One or more photos with a caption.

You’ll notice in this advertorial example, I’ve included a faux coupon at the bottom to highlight the offer and call to action. This is not typical of advertorials, but then, I’m always breaking the rules when I have a good reason. In this case, I wanted to communicate with both readers and scanners and not rely entirely on the call to action at the end of the article.

It paid off, since this was a successful ad which help my client sell out in record time.

So why are advertorials a problem for many copywriters? I think it’s hard for many writers to switch from a promotional tone to a more newsy tone. And for young writers who are used to skimming rather than reading, and who get all their news online rather than in publications, the advertorial is a mysterious concept.

Now I realize that writing advertorials may seem like an old-fogey idea, but print isn’t dead yet. And more and more offline copywriting techniques are being used online. Just as the advertorial works in print, it will also work online.

So eventually, as a professional copywriter, you will be asked to write an advertorial. And you should understand how it works and how to write one.

Here are a bunch of other advertorial samples. The best way to learn about this special style of ad is to read a few.

Related posts:

  1. How to write product descriptions that appeal to the senses
  2. Hard sell vs soft sell: What’s the difference?

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Smart Comments

3 Comments on How to write an advertorial to sell a product

  1. Merryl Rosenthal on Apr 9th, 2010 4:19 am
  2. Advertorials share elements of white papers, although the advertorials are much shorter, of course.

    Thanks for the information!

    Cheers. :)

  3. Scott Yoder on Nov 2nd, 2010 11:16 pm
  4. I think advertorials are coming to their own for online copy. Think about it. An informational article that blends in a sales message…that sounds like a great deal of online copy. In fact, I don’t think it’s a bad strategy to consider using advertorial style for business web pages. It satisfies the reader’s need to be informed and the business’ need to promote what they sell.

  5. tinagleisner on Mar 6th, 2012 8:30 pm
  6. It’s possible that Facebook with recent timeline for business pages, is reinventing advertorials online. You can now pay for better positioning of your Facebook status updates … so wondering what the walls will look like in 6 months.