In the world of copywriting, the advertorial is a mutt. Part ad, part editorial, it hits the magazine or trade publication reader when they are already primed to read. When the advertorial is not that engaging it can come across as deceptive. There you are, cozied up with your favorite glossy only to look up at the page to see “special advertising section”. Drats! Foiled again.
Despite the potential “ick” factor, the best advertorials can be just as captivating as a “regular” article. A whisky brand takes you on a journey from hundreds of years of tradition to modern blend techniques. A beauty brand curates a fashion collection with style tips incorporating the product and the travel agency transports you to an island you have never even heard of.
It is long-form copy that is just as evocative and informative as an editorial but must at the same time, incorporate brand message and have client input and final say just like a traditional ad.
So what are some good steps to take when writing this kind of copy?
Get the essentials down.
This is the “ad” part. Glean the information essential for the client to have included. This is the nuts and bolts of what you are working with it is the ad part-the sell. If you are working from a press release, it might be helpful to write or type down the most important words, phrases and facts on a separate sheet of paper (making sure you are meticulous). When I have enough time, I prefer to do it this manner that way I am looking at my own notes as opposed to the press release, so I can be freed up to create fresh and original writing.
Understand tone and intent
With this type of copy, you are fitting into an existing tone. Most advertorials need to appeal to the readers of their “host” publication. In the case of the luxury watch publication I write for, the aim is to create brand loyalty over time by informing the consumer and whetting their appetite for exclusivity. The tone is sophisticated and knowledgable. The target audience needs the details on the watches and wants to know they are getting insider knowledge. Your advertorial tone might be humorous and sexy or young and trendy depending on the product and the publication.
For me, this is the fun part. To temporarily forget I am writing an ad. Be confident that you have got your facts down solid, the key words your client needs to have, the intent and tone. Put your editorial hat on and craft a story. Find an interesting (factual) tidbit about your subject, an aspect of the product, service or destination that really hooks you. Take your reader on a journey through the inner workings of company. Do some original research to find an angle relating to the product or a quote or a tid-bit from the brand archives. Once you have internalized the message and tone, make it personal-write with the same freedom and care you would take writing an original feature you pitched to editors yourself.
Remember why you came here
Now it is time to come off of your editorial high and remember you are an ad writer. Go back and make sure that the story you wrote contains the key words and product knowledge and clearly leads the reader down the path towards the intended destination. Make sure your work fits seamlessly into the lifestyle voice of the world your advertorial is making its home in.
Opposites attract and with advertorial writing, it is a love match between informing and evoking, between imparting brand knowledge and stoking an emotion. This is true with any ad, but with an advertorial you get more time on stage. You have an opportunity to work on core ad writing skills while developing a feel for the narrative and structural elements which are so key to good editorial writing. Oh, and you get paid! Which truly puts the special in “special advertising section”.