How to write advertorials
Or perhaps I should say why to write advertorials. Do we need advertorials? Do they work and for that matter how many adverts that we submit to magazines in a sometimes desperate attempt to nudge the awareness of the buying public actually work as they are supposed to? How do we measure this? Too many questions.
Usually it is a matter of trust. Let’s say you are a hard-working independent retailer and you are called by your local town, city or county magazine and told all about the wonderful forthcoming Christmas issue. You are given what appear to be impressive distribution figures so that you imagine countless thousands of people devouring every page and vacuuming all the information you put together about your shop. It’s a little pricey but surely a half-page advert will do wonders for your Christmas trade. You can submit some photos and your logo and the magazine will do the rest, even allowing you to write your own words to accompany the advert – the beloved advertorial.
But caveat emptor! One client of mine has followed through two such conversations and has both times decided to take an advert and also, both times, has asked specifically that she be able to write the advertorial – not the magazine. She then came to me to prepare about 250 words to go with an advert showing off her new Christmas products and promoting her name to the world. In advance of the deadline for submitting the material for the advert, the magazine editor emailed her with a suggested advertorial of their own. It misspelt several things, was poorly punctuated and it seemed to be loosely based on a template selling just about anything in any shop. My client quickly made it clear that she was, as agreed, providing the advertorial, not them and soon afterwards sent them the words I’d written. Subsequently, no proofs arrived for her to check and approve but she was sent a copy of the new issue on the first day of publication. Lo and behold, there before her was an advertorial written by God knows who at the magazine – boldly printed but written badly and about nothing in particular, with all the misspellings and solecisms intact. My client was furious and vowed never to have further dealings with the magazine.
A year went by, the phone rang. A new charming editor talked my client through the dazzling Christmas issue – a nice price was dangled. My client had not forgotten what happened before but nevertheless gave in eventually and booked another ad. I was again contacted to write another 250 words. Oddly enough, as the deadline for submitting the advert approached the magazine sent a reminder with their own poorly penned, misspelt and generic piece of advertorial nonsense appended. My client was very quick to pick up the phone and tell them in no uncertain terms that only the advertorial she sent them must be printed. Again, she sent them the piece of writing she wanted.
Two weeks later the glossy magazine landed on her doorstep and when she opened it – you know what I’m going to say – the ghastly piece of nonsense was there in place of the advertorial she had commissioned from me. This time war was declared. Here was another printed advert that would probably do more harm than good. The editor and editor-in-chief both called and grovelled but the damage was done.
I was going to write about how to write advertorials but I was side-tracked, my only excuse being that this might act as a warning to others to ensure that, since you pay good money for this supposed service, you should damn well get what you have agreed in the deal you have struck.
But as to how to write advertorials, the nub of it is this. Make it interesting and different. Give the piece a bit of personality – perhaps by opening it with a quote from the business owner about something new in the Christmas offer. Employ an angle, or hook just as you would when you tell any story and you’ll find that instead of just saying ‘we sell beautiful scarves’ you’ve already wrapped a tantalising silk scarf round your customer’s neck and you’re towing her to your door.