The (beautiful?) thing about language is that it is ever-evolving.
We freewheelingly combine terms, create acronyms, and shoot shorthand around because it’s convenient (“LOL,” thanks, text messaging) and other times because it’s cool/funny (“Brangelina,” “Kimye,” thanks, tabloids).
The combinations are called “portmanteau words”—(brunch, chocoholic, chillax, and more; there is a nice list here.)
Which brings us to the advertorial.
What is an Advertorial?
An advertorial is a portmanteau, combining the words “advertisement” and “editorial.” In practice, an advertorial is a sponsored or paid for advertisement that is crafted and created to look like a magazine or newspaper editorial (similar to a native piece of content).
From that, you can start to form the differences between advertorial and editorial.
Editorial vs. Advertorial
For the sake of simplicity, let’s say there are three main factors separating advertorials and editorials:
Why was the piece written?
Advertorials are placed in the same manner as advertisements, and thus, are paid for by a company or individual to be included in a particular magazine or newspaper. Simply, an advertorial is written because someone paid for it to be written.
Editorials, tough, are written because the story or content is deemed to be relevant, timely, or newsworthy based on its subject matter alone. The writer/publisher of the editorial feels strongly enough about the topic at hand to dedicate resources towards creating and publicizing it.
Who wrote the piece?
Advertorials are largely written by the company paying to advertise. Just as a company would supply their own creative and content for a TV commercial or traditional print advertisement, the editorial is supplied by the paying organization to the publication doing the printing.
Editorials are written by editors, who feel it necessary to include a particular story in their publication based on subject matter.
What is written (the actual content)?
Advertorials, while written to appear like editorials, are written purely to promote a particular product, service, or company. Thus, the content is heavily-biased in favor of the “thing” being promoted, and everything written is done so to showcase benefits, features, positive aspects, etc. While you should be able to easily spot an advertorial based on subject matter and skew alone, publications are required by the FTC to disclose that the piece is in fact an ad.
Editorials are much different, and written to represent a publication’s stance or opinion on a certain issue. With the goal of swaying public opinion, editorials will be subjective in nature, using emotional appeals to state points.
In the end, the only editorial component of the advertorial is really the look and feel of the put-together piece. Everything else, from the content to the overall purpose varies greatly between the two.
From that example, it’s clear the value and impact a well-done advertorial can have. In an age where we are all “trained” to fast-forward through ads, or click “skip” the first chance we get, an ad in editorial’s clothing can catch a few a few more eyeballs if done right.
Side note, as a consumer reading a magazine, I almost have more disdain for a brand if I catch myself being tricked into reading their advertorial than had I just come across a traditional ad. It’s a tough call, really…on one hand, you want to give respect for the brand creatively weaseling their way in front of you, and on the other, you can’t help but think “how dare you?”