Unlike traditional journal ads, advertorials are not designed to hard-sell brands. They're usually written in a news magazine format, but also employ elaborate illustrations and detailed stories that aren't always used in traditional stories. Advertorials are typically scientific and educational in nature and are used to achieve one of the following objectives: communicate an unmet need within a category, increase disease state awareness, influence or change a treatment paradigm, or explain a new mechanism of action (MOA).
Many marketers purchase advertorial space prior to the launch of a drug in order to boost interest in the drug's MOA, and to educate physicians on how to use the product. However, there is less evidence to support using advertorials once a product was already approved. The Association of Healthcare Media Directors (AHMD), working with research firm The Matalia Group, initiated a study to understand the relative effectiveness of advertorials run concurrently with branded advertising, and to determine which types of advertorials resonate most with readers.
The results show that, in message credibility, advertorials were equally as effective as branded ads. However, advertorials were shown to be more effective than branded ads in terms of generating interest, providing valuable information, and provoking follow-up discussions with drug reps or colleagues. The findings indicate that advertorials accomplish their overall goal, which is to educate physicians. In fact, a large majority of physicians believed that advertorials helped them better understand a disease or health condition (see "Advertorial Versus Branded,").
Interest Overall, readers found advertorials more interesting than branded ads, likely due to the educational nature of their content. More than three out of four respondents (76.3 percent) were "somewhat" or "very interested" in the advertorials. Nevertheless, branded ads ranked only slightly lower in interest than advertorials: almost two thirds of readers (59.6 percent) were "somewhat" or "very interested" in the branded ads. The study suggests that physicians respond favorably to journal advertising and find both advertorials and branded ads to be of interest.
Deliver educational value Physicians clearly understood that advertorials provide educational, rather than promotional, value. Seven out of ten physicians viewed advertorials as educational while four out of ten regarded branded ads as educational. Over half (57.5 percent) considered branded ads as mostly or somewhat promotional, and advertorials proved to be more effective than branded ads in improving readers' understanding of the target disease state or health condition (61 percent versus 55.8 percent).