How to Write an Advertorial That Works

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Advertorials are contrary to typical advertising that features 90 percent visual and barely any of the written word. Instead, advertorials seek to resemble the pages of the publication in which they're appearing and are intended to be an interesting read, divulging a myriad of information about the product or service. The No. 1 rule is to entertain the reader. Advertorials are also known as long-form copy ads or native advertising in the digital world. To achieve advertorial success, start with what's known to work.

Forgo the Sales Pitch

When all is said and done, this is probably the most important piece of advice you can get when writing an advertorial. Your advertorial is your Trojan Horse. You may have an army of selling points but your audience won't read them if they see them coming. Readers don't want to read an advertisement, they want to read something interesting. Selling language and hard-hitting pitches are not interesting. To some, they may be offensive.

To accomplish this, you have to create an advertorial that has a direct and logical connection to your product or service. If you're selling a cleaning product, an article about the unseen dangerous germs lurking in your home may work well. If you're selling a tool, write about 10 simple Do-It-Yourself projects that anyone can handle.

As long as you can subtly weave in your specific product a few times, you will successfully tie the two together and plant a seed that may result in a sale. Blatant selling language is not going to convert as many people into customers.

You can create an amazingly well-written advertorial that brings the reader from the headline through to the last paragraph. But if you suddenly travel from editorial language to sales speak, people will drop out. That translates to a big leap in tonality. Keep the selling messages toned correctly.

Headlines Do the Heavy Lifting

Since your ad's goal is to look more like an article or feature, leave the visual puns and expensive photo shoots out of the mix. The copy has to stand on its own merit. Your headline needs to be compelling, interesting, and jarring. Give readers something unexpected that calls to them to read the actual article.

An advertorial headline from 1926 still captivates the ad community. John Caples wrote, "They laughed at me when I sat down at the piano. But when I started to play!" Its success hangs on the emotions stirred within an instant of reading it. No hard sales pitch here, but the intended soft lead charms and beguiles.

Involve the Reader

Writers often misfire, overly concerned with weaving together the list of required selling points and dry research when readers want an emotional reaction. Looking again at John Caples' work, the language in the first few lines of the copy continues to intrigue: "Arthur had just played The Rosary. The room rang with applause. I decided that this would be a dramatic moment for me to make my debut."

The selling comes toward the last half of the ad and is written with masterful tonality. Look at advertorials through the decades. Caples' work is from a time long past, but it continues to resonate because of his ability to elicit that emotional response from the reader.

Your aim is to take a cold prospect and give them a reason to call, visit a website, or email the client. "Entertain, inform, and sell" is the mantra.

Research the Context

Every great advertising star through the ages, like David Ogilvy, William Bernbach, and Alex Bogusky, knows the importance of researching the media. If you're designing a billboard, it's all about the location and surroundings. Working on a print ad? You need to read the magazine from cover to cover. The same goes for advertorials. Your advertorial should be targeted to the readership of the intended magazine or newspaper.

An advertorial appearing in Maxim magazine, for instance, will have a completely different tone from one in the pages of Vogue, although the product or service may be exactly the same. If you know the magazine's readership well, you'll be better equipped to write an attention-grabbing headline and copy to keep them interested.

Use Photographs and Illustrations Sparingly

Some advertorials overuse photos or diagrams, leaving little room for the copy. This is a wasted opportunity to intertwine more of the story about your product. Use visual content judiciously and intelligently. Only use the visuals if they help sell the idea and move the story forward. Look at a newspaper article or magazine feature as a frame of reference. With too many images, the words don't have the power to build a story and complete the sale.