High-Quality Advertorials Happen More Often if Editors Contribute Ideas

By Howard Rauch

Does “advertorial” deserve its rep among editors as a way to cloak a sales pitch in the guise of legitimate content? Or is it a marketing opportunity waiting to happen if handled creatively by a publisher/editor team?

When mishandled, advertorial management can be a nightmare from start to finish. On the other hand, the technique provides a way to offer B2B customers exclusivity that will make their message stand out from the crowd.

I started thinking about advertorials the other day as I was leafing through a bunch of digital magazines. Although there are supposed to be wondrous things you can do via animation, most content presentation was absolutely flat. Animated advertorials undoubtedly would be a knock-out. Whether they are affordable in this current economy is another story.

Anyway, in my VP/editorial director days, I supervised editorial preparation for dozens of advertorials. Here is what I learned along the way:

1. Advertorials don’t have to be wall-to-wall puffy product pitches. Sponsored sections with a how-to, high-value editorial flavor can be sold if the right prototype is part of the presentation.

2. Editors must be involved in the planning stage because they are in the best position to identify newsworthy angles that dovetail with the prospect’s marketing objectives.

3. Don’t pin yourself down to the traditional standard-size format. Newsletters and even a series of one-page bulletins can make for a terrific campaign.

4. One editorial element that may close the sale is inclusion of exclusive research of interest to the magazine’s readership.

5. Have a contract that includes a deadline schedule covering a minimum 90-day period. This allows time for copy to be written and clearances to be obtained.

6. You need a designated contact at the client’s company. Ideally that individual is somebody with enough clout to push things through.

7. Full-time staff editors should not be involved in writing advertorial copy.

8. “Show-in-print” sections are a multisponsor project that sometimes can turn a revenue-losing issue into a big winner.

9. Don’t run advertorials sponsored by competitors in the same issue.

10. Despite your best efforts in terms of up-front planning, some projects will fail.
And selling multipage supplements is no easy task. Even in the face of these difficulties, creative advertorials should be an option highlighted in your publication’s marketing menu.

By this time, some of you may be wondering why I have taken up your time with a marketing matter. Is the above information going to make you a better editor? Actually, it might. Meanwhile, understanding your role as a marketer will make you a better publisher. And we are in the publishing business, not the editing business.

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