How to Write an Advertorial: Layout & Guidelines

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Advertisement or editorial? Writing an advertorial combines the best of both worlds. In this lesson, you'll learn how to write an effective advertorial, including some layout pointers and guidelines for the text.

The Best of Both Worlds

Tracey's company has a great new cosmetics line they want to unveil to its target demographic of teen makeup lovers. It features great color palettes and all-natural ingredients that won't clog pores. The company wants to do something a bit different from a traditional ad that will convey the benefits of the new line.

Tracey has the bright idea to put together an advertorial, equal parts advertisement and editorial to explain this new line, and she's found the perfect teen magazine in which to run it.

For brands, the beauty of an advertorial is that it blends into the publication as just another article or piece of content. In this lesson, we'll talk about both the layout of an advertorial, as well as some guidelines for crafting effective content.

Layout of Advertorials

The single most important thing to remember when designing the layout of an advertorial is to be a copycat. Yes, that's right. You want to mimic, as closely as possible, the look, design, voice and content of the print publication you're appearing in. You want to almost ''trick'' the readers into thinking that your advertorial is a part of the magazine's existing content, but engage them in relevant, interesting advertising content. For example, an advertorial in ''Sports Illustrated'' is going to look vastly different than an advertorial in ''Family Circle.'' Why? Because the design, voice, and even readership of each publication is vastly different.

Here are some other layout concerns to consider:

1. Hold off on using too many photos or graphics. Including too many of either can cause your advertorial to look like more of an ''ad'' than an ''editorial.'' That doesn't mean to avoid using any graphic elements, but be certain that the ones you use enhance the message, not take it away.

2. Give people the business... information, that is. Whatever your reader's next step is, you should be one step ahead. Include your web address, toll-free number or other pertinent details in the layout of your advertorial.

3. Look at the little things. It may not seem significant, but features like the font used, size of the text, and number of columns can mean the difference between blending in and standing out. With an advertorial, blending in is the goal.

4. Know your audience. Choose publications that match the target audience you're trying to reach and then dig in and learn more about who the readers of that publication are. What are their wants or needs and how can you fulfill them? Structure your content around this information as well.

5. Label your advertorial accordingly. Federal law requires all paid content to include a disclaimer that it is, in fact, paid content. That means while you're designing and writing an advertorial to blend into the content around it, you also have to label your advertorial as an advertisement.

Guidelines for Advertorials

Because one-half of an advertorial is the ''editorial'' component, it's just as important to master writing guidelines that will make your advertorial stand out. Consider these tips:

1. Abide by the 70-30 rule. That means, craft an advertorial that is 70 percent engaging content and 30 percent of you trying to sell your product or service. What's engaging content? Things like product benefits, how-to instructions or something entertaining or informative. Focus less on the selling; good content will sell itself.

2. Tell readers exactly what you want them to do. In many marketing and advertising circles, this is called a call-to-action, the ''action'' you want readers of your advertorial to take such as redeeming a free offer or starting a trial membership. Offer a call-to-action early in your content and at least one other time toward the end.

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