Decide, Then Develop
There are few hard-and-fast rules for developing advertorials. One rule of thumb, however, is that the more educational and
balanced the copy is, the more likely it is to hold the reader's interest and attention.
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE Companies as Educators
That doesn't mean that marketers should squeeze as much copy as they can onto a page—too much text, and the message will be
lost. Companies can improve the readability on full-text pages with graphs and pull-quotes. Advertorials are like any other
ad, and will only get a fast glance if they fail to pull the reader in. In addition, companies should ensure that they match
the colors, typography, and images on advertorials to subsequent communications. That's because, like other prelaunch activities,
advertorials are a step along the pathway of product branding.
Marketers can determine if an advertorial is worth their investment by asking the following questions. A positive response
to one or more indicates that an advertorial may be worthwhile.
- Is there a new understanding of the disease process that may lay the foundation for the introduction of more targeted therapies?
- Does the company have a new message regarding a specific disease-state pathogenesis?
- Do healthcare professionals need to be made more aware of a given disease or treatment option?
- Is there currently a lack of appreciation or understanding regarding a given condition?
- Are there new efficacy or safety benefits that healthcare professionals need to be made aware of?
- Is there a reason to establish a compelling sense of urgency?
- Does the product address an underserved need?
- Is there a lack of social acceptance about a given condition?
Companies should ensure that advertorials follow either the publishers' guidelines—or the guidelines of the American Society
of Magazine Editors (ASME)—which many major publishers adhere to. Otherwise advertorials may be perceived as editorial, and
publishers may refuse to run them.
"When an advertorial cannot be distinguished from editorial, companies run the risk of losing the readers' trust," says Peter
Murphy, former division director of advertising sales and marketing for the American Medical Association and now vice-president
and general manager, primary care group, for Advanstar Communications. "A publication has two customers—the reader and the
advertiser. As publishers we have to maintain the trust with readers because that's what makes them come back to us on a regular
basis. If we can deliver the reader, then we can deliver the exposure the advertiser is interested in."
Advertising agencies should already be intimately familiar with the ASME guidelines. However, the most salient points include:
Content. Advertorials should be sufficiently distinct from the magazine's editorial material so readers will not confuse editorial
pages with sponsored content.
Sponsorship declaration. Each text page of a special advertising section must be clearly and conspicuously identified as a message that has been paid
for by advertisers, typically by including the word "advertisement," which should appear near the center of the top of every
page containing text, in type at least equal in size and weight to the publication's normal editorial body typeface.
Layout. The layout, design, typeface and literary style of advertorials should be distinctly different from the publication's normal
layout, design, typefaces, and literary style.
Magazine's brand. In general, the publication's name or logo should not appear as any part of the headlines or text of such sections, except
in connection with the magazine's own products or services.
Placement. Advertising sections should not be placed adjacent to editorial material in a manner that implies editorial endorsement of
the advertised product or services.
No editorial involvement. The names and titles of editors, editorial staff members, and regular editorial contributors should not appear on, or be
associated with, special advertising sections for their own publication, for other publications in their field, or for advertisers
in the fields they cover. Nor should edit-orial staff members work on projects prepared by the publisher for one or more advertisers.
Editorial review of ad pages. In order for the publication's chief editor to have the opportunity to monitor compliance with these guidelines, material
for special advertising sections should be made available to the editor before publication, in ample time for review and to
recommend necessary changes.
Break Through the Clutter
Typically, companies should introduce advertorials to the target audience early in the prelaunch phase, possibly as early
as two years before launch. They should run them based on the same principles of other media schedules—deciding what levels
of reach and frequency they want to obtain among physicians and spending appropriately.
Pharma companies can view the tactic as part of both educational and market development activities. As such, support through
an advertising campaign and medical education efforts can perpetuate the momentum created by the advertorials.
"Advertorials allow companies to deal with a complex subject, which is similar to sending a letter to doctors," says Dowden's
Osborn. "However, while we see promotional materials appear in doctors' mailboxes by the jillions, relatively few advertorials
are run in journals. If I had a complicated message, putting it in the journal is going to have a high degree of impact because
it will be one of the few in the issue."
Because they are only one component of the brand's overall communication plan, it is difficult to determine their discrete
and exact impact. For the most part, measurement of advertorial effectiveness falls into the category of attitude and usage
changes over time, especially when used as part of the pre-launch marketing mix. Marketers can judge the effectiveness through
ad studies or market research.
Advertorials are effective at breaking through the clutter because "they are the solution for companies that don't want to
undergo the peer-review process, yet still want to promote a message, within a journal or other literature, that their target
customer is planning to read," says Carol Bak, director of journal programs at Lippincott Williams & Wilkens Healthcare.
Indeed, the evaluation used for this article shows that companies' use of advertorials has become more pronounced in recent
"In the 1990s, very few advertorials were run," says Advanstar's Murphy. "They've just come back into vogue at the end of
2001 and beginning of 2002, and I believe that form of advertising is on the increase."