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Advertorials: powerful ads in camouflage

The infomercial experience looks something like this:

You open a magazine and notice this interesting one-page article with a compelling headline. Yes, you notice the word “Advertising” in lowercase.

print at the top, but because it looks a lot like an article (even matching the layout format of the magazine), you start reading. And what you read informs and intrigues you. You’ll see a mild call to action, phone number, and email at the end, so moved by the editorial content and factual writing, you decide to check the product further.

Target another qualified prospect.

Infomercials combine cleverly biased editorial content with one or two direct response devices to create a very powerful hybrid marketing tool. They are designed to blend in with the background of a magazine and sound almost as editorial as the articles they contain, which tends to keep the infomercials wonderfully camouflaged.

Does that mean that this type of hidden advertising crosses the line of “sneaky marketing”? Yes and no. Yes, to the extent that infomercials go to great lengths, perhaps too much, to look like articles.

But no, to the extent that they are, in fact, very “article-like”.

In other words, decent infomercials offer a respectable share of well-written and useful content, theoretically in keeping with the philosophy of the magazines in which they appear. Readers should leave feeling almost as informed as when they have read an actual article.

Yet despite all their editorial power, infomercials exist for sales and occasionally for public relations purposes. With that said, here’s why infomercials are actually stronger Sales tools than articles or ads alone.

Five killer advertising advantages

o First, you can put an infomercial anywhere you can put an ad. Not so with articles where you would, of course, need a hard-to-get editorial approval (and sometimes that’s a impossible to get approval). And even if you could get that go-ahead, articles get edited and traded all the time. Fortunately, you can put an unedited infomercial in any magazine you want whenever you want … and that’s like placing a Article in any magazine you want whenever you want.

o Next, and as mentioned, infomercials have a lot of the credibility of genuine articles; readers can’t always tell them apart from the real thing (and some magazines forget to put that little “Advertising” tag on top of them). But even when readers recognize an infomercial, they still respond differently to that format than to advertisements. After all, we are creatures of conditioning, and when it comes to magazines, we are conditioned to respond to what looks like an advertisement in one way and what looks like an article in another way. Readers simply give infomercials looking for articles more credibility than mere advertisements.

o Speaking of credibility, infomercials often come with the “implied endorsement” of the host magazine. Somewhere in the reader’s brain, it records that the magazine has approved this “article” to appear on its prized pages … and that also elevates the credibility of infomercials above the level of pedestrian advertisements.

o Due to its advertorial format, it can also deliver much more compelling content than a regular ad, often leading to highly qualified leads. Sure, that means a lot of words, but it’s okay. People equate articles with content. Besides, even the best copy in the world is still, well, Copy-words designed for readers to buy something. Aren’t the words of an infomercial designed to do the same? Yes … but in a much more subtle way. Advertorials use an editorial tone to inform the reader about a product or service. But it doesn’t stop there. As a highly supportive item, gently promote what is being sold. And that’s where the skill of a good infomercial creator comes in. Write an infomercial that is too biased and readers will just think of it as another ad and stop reading it. It looks too much like an advertisement and readers won’t even give it a second glance. On the other hand, it exhausts all the sales of an infomercial and gives off all the motive.

Copywriting and infomercial writing are two very different animals.

o No need to worry about infomercials. contents answer section. Curious readers who crave more information still hit it hard. “It just feels a lot safer to respond to an infomercial than an ad,” was the way one astute reader put it.

These are, of course, widespread advantages. As with most things in life, success is determined by how well an infomercial actually runs.

But print infomercials aren’t the only ones out there.

Are online infomercials just as effective?

You’ve probably already read more infomercials online than you are entitled to and don’t know. Talk about camouflage! Online infomercials – the best ones anyway – are cleverly woven into a website or article at the right time and in the right tone so that it appears as just another piece of content. One or two strategically placed links characterize them. Done right, an online infomercial takes your offering out of the “advertising” realm and seamlessly places it in the “useful information” category.

Remember, the entire premise of the Internet is supposed to be information. No advertising. Most people don’t spend their time online looking for ads. They spend it looking for facts, articles, opinions, reviews. That’s why the online infomercial can be a promotional gem. It fits perfectly with the format.

The fact that online infomercials exist within the “playing field” of the site’s content or editorial is another credibility advantage in their favor. Take it off that playing field, put it on a banner separate from the content, and viewers will just see it for the naked advertising that it is and respond accordingly … that is, they often don’t respond at all.

Also, if the website owner agrees to combine a testimonial or some other supporting language with the infomercial, their already considerable credibility can skyrocket.

It is generally recognized that the quality of advertorial leads is far superior to the quality of banner leads. Ask the Wall Street Journal online. They are among a number of big guys harnessing the power of infomercial affiliate programs.

And if the big guys are employing infomercials, then maybe it’s time for companies large and small to consider this new camouflaged advertising brand.

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