Monday, December 22, 2008

Ethics of Using Advertorials

An advertorial is an ad disguised as an editorial. Many will argue that advertising that is not disclosed is deliberately deceptive. Advertorials are designed to deceive, from the layout to the language. That being said, there are worse tools tactics out there, and advertorials do have some benefits.

Why are advertorials designed to be deceptive? According to the Online Journalism Review, “In the world of online publication, where the nature of the medium is that both journalistic sites and their ads are fraught with slick graphics, clear labeling of articles and advertisements can be key to keeping potential readers aware of what they are reading. However, when an advertorial is not labeled as an advertisement but as an 'InfoSite,' or with other such euphemistic labels, it may serve to lure readers into ads.” Everything about the appearance of an advertorial is designed to make the user think it is informative content, rather than paid advertising. The content is written in such a way as the user will read it like a journalistic article. The central conflicting aspect of the editorial is that it creates the idea that users are reading objective editorial content.

What are the benefits of advertorials? Advertorials do offer a great deal of information about the product, service, and industry. They also offer the benefit of no-risk product demonstration. Often advertorials will have increased credibility (or perceived credibility) due to the length, amount, and complexity of content included. The content also is assumed to have value and relevance to the reader.

If utilizing the advertorial, it is necessary to properly disclose the nature of the information. Scott Angus, editor of the Janesville Gazette (WI) offers some pointers. They must be properly labeled as “paid advertisements.” A change in font and layout from the rest of the content will keep them distinct from the journalistic articles. Third party disclaimers, or labels from the media organization running the advertorial, will also increase the ethical nature of the advertorial.

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