An advertorial is easy to understand. Break the word apart in the middle and you have “adver” (as in advertising”) and “torial” (as in editorial). Thus, an advertorial combines the skills of a copywriter and article writer to sell a product or service in story form.
Advertorials help large and small businesses avoid the traditional “hard-sell” ad and instead use a more personal, emotional-driven “story” that convinces readers to buy or try the product or service. The very best advertorials in magazines are ones that readers mistake for actual articles until they hit the “call-to-action” at the end or discover the small disclaimer saying that the article is actually an advertisement.
Whether you are a copywriter, an article writer, or a journalist, you can easily grasp the mechanics of writing advertorials for clients. Without realizing it, you might have written advertorials, in some form or to some degree, for clients. Here are some practical tips to understand the components of an advertorial and how to write one.
Writing an Advertorial
Compared to traditional ads, advertorials are more flexible, lending themselves as much to magazine or newspaper pages as homepages and blogs. Additionally, because it’s “indirect” advertising, an advertorial is better at pulling the readers into the content and
holding their attention than a simple ad boasting, “Buy XXX Widgets!”
1. Familiarize Yourself with the Client’s Product or Service
- Do you have any personal experience with what you’re trying to sell?
- Have you worked with this company or client previously?
- How much research is required to make you sound like an authority in the given industry?
2. Craft a clever, article-style headline.
Make your advertorial look like an article, starting with the title. The title should hint at what the advertorial is about and the benefits of reading it. An advertorial selling a new deodorant might have the title, “Don’t Sweat It: How to Keep Perspiration Under Control.” Or a news-style advertorial selling a space heater that consumes less electricity might have the title: “Locals Line Up for New Lost-Cost Appliance that Reduces Heat Bills.” This will grab readers’ attention.
3. Create a story plot.
Remember: an advertorial is a story; thus, it should have a beginning, middle, and end, where the problem is directly solved by the use of the product or service. Because most advertorials are the length of full articles (from 600 to 800 words), you need to engage and entertain readers as you convince them how your client’s product or service has helped you or has helped people.
The advertorial, as a story, must:
- Catch readers’ attention in the first 1-3 sentences.
- Introduce the character(s)—the person or people using the product or service.
- Establish the setting or scenario.
- Introduce the problem or problems.
- Stir readers’ emotions by showing how the problem(s) might also affect their lifestyles in a negative way.
- Introduce the client’s product or service as the solution.
- Show how the product or service turns all the negatives into positives.
- Add the “happy” ending. Show how the person’s life has changed for the better by using the product or service.
- Add a “call-to-action” such as a toll-free number, an order form, a coupon to use, etc.
Let’s say your client sells floor cleaning machines. If your copy posed the question, “What could I use to clean my garage floor without breaking my back?” The client’s product, a solution, is: “I’ve heard about the Wonder-Widget 7000 and decided to give it a try.” The outcome is, “Now my garage floor sparkles and my back feels great!” The immediate problem, the introduction of the product as a solution, and then the beneficial outcome all encourages interest in the product.
4. Don’t mention the price tag.
If the product is complicated to understand, then it might warrant explanation, but only if it’s relevant to your story. Avoid finance-related words like “cost,” “expense,” or “price.” This can drive potential readers away. Before readers even see the “call-to-action” at the end, you must establish credibility and rapport to achieve a positive outcome.
5. Don’t write like a shill.
Stay away from verbiage that suggests you’re employed by the company in any capacity. An example of good advertorial copy might be something like this:
“When I cleaned out my garage this spring, I noticed the floor was filthy. Since my grandchildren come to visit often and like to play in the garage, I decided I needed to do something about it. The problem is, my back isn’t as limber as it used to be and I couldn’t see spending hours on my hands and knees scrubbing dirt and oil off the floor.”
This establishes the “main story character” as “Joe (or Jane) Average.” Of course, the rules of good grammar and writing style are still important.
6. What to Charge
The price to write an advertorial depends on many factors, such as the type of client, the industry in which your client serves, the length of the advertorial, and the medium. A standard industry rate is $1.00 per word; however, many copywriters estimate a flat rate or an hourly rate. Where your client will use the advertorial also factors into the price. For example, if a client hires you to write a 700-word advertorial on a vitamin supplement that will appear in Popular Science, then you’d know that your writing skills must match or exceed the writing skills of their best article writers. Such level of skills warrants a rate equal to or higher than what Popular Science pays its freelance writers. If you discovered that Popular Science pays freelance writers up to $1.50/word, then you should consider this rate as part of pricing the advertorial.
Besides writing the advertorial, your final price should factor in time to research, revise, and polish the copy to perfection. Finally, because clients will run the same advertorials for many months in different publications, they will often purchase All Rights or hire you under a “Work for Hire” contract, meaning that the client owns all copyrights to the advertorial and is not required to pay you royalties or pay you each time the advertorial is published.
To help you price your services, ask yourself:
- How much research is involved? More research equals more time. More time should mean more money. Research might take 25% additional time to write the advertorial.
- What is the turnaround time? Shorter turnaround means more pressure and less time to prefect the content, so consider a higher rate.
- Is the client a repeat customer? For a new client, you may decide to offer a discount to encourage repeat business.
- How involved is the client? If you have carte blanche, charging slightly less to have creative freedom is reasonable. By contrast, if the client is more demanding, then consider charging a higher rate to accommodate his or her demands.
Example: A repeat client asks you to write an advertorial in two days. It’s to sell a new brand of sneakers, a product unfamiliar to you. The client also has a lengthy list of requirements. You know you will need at least 3-6 hours of research. Your base salary is $45/hour, and/or .55 cents a word. You analyze the project and estimate the following:
($45 X 6 for six hours of research) = $270
($270 X 25% for a tight deadline) = $67.50 (a surcharge)
(800 (words) X .55 to write the advertorial) = $440
Estimated final price = $780 (rounded up)
Your pricing will probably be different, but you can use the above pricing formula as a starting point.