What is an advertorial? Should you use them too? Who was Theodore F. Macmanus?

It's a classic tango, advertisers wanting their services promoted to potential customers, and potential customers skipping over advertisements to get to the content they want to consume. Alternate approach? Disguise advertising as an article with the hopes that readers will read/hear/view the message. 

What is an advertorial? 

Image credit: Cadillac. Full text of ad below.

According to Dictionary.com: an extended newspaper or magazine text advertisement that promotes the advertiser's product or services or special point of view, but resembles an editorial in style and layout.  

The use of advertorials date back over a hundred years to works such as The Penalty of Leadership  by Theodore F. Macmanus for Cadillac in 1915. Well written and effective, it was voted "The Greatest Ad of All Time" in 1945, and Elvis Presley had a framed version in his office.

Should you use them? 

It's easy to think of advertorials as obsolete method of advertising of a by gone era - we more or less did - before taking on this project. But after some research and closer look, they can be effective when used correctly. They are, after all, another form of product placement advertising, which is ever increasing in our age of DVR fast forward and web browser ad blockers. Sponsored content on the internet is now considered a hot trend, referred to as Native Advertising.

Five keys to effective advertorials: 

  1. Be Specific: Choose a publication targeted to the demographic you want to reach 

  2. Grab Attention: Write a creative headline
  3. Make it Quality: Write good content that informs and builds trust and credibility with the reader 
  4. Unlock Design: Design the ad to look like other articles in the publication
  5. Decrease Sales Pitch: Keep promotion of your business to a minimum  

Our advertorial design

Below is our advertorial design for a physical therapy client. This is part one of a four part series targeted to active adults over age 50. See the full issue

Anatomy of the Knee Pain Advertorial for  Berkana Rehabilitation Institute

Anatomy of the Knee Pain Advertorial for Berkana Rehabilitation Institute


The text of Cadillac’s The Penalty of Leadership:

“In every field of human endeavour, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be mediocre, he will be left severely alone – if he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done, those who are disappointed or envious, continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountback, long after the big world had acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river banks to see his boat steam by. The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy – but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as human passions – envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains – the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live – lives. “

Clark Wolter

With over 15 years experience working with design studios as well as in-house design teams, I started my own design business in 2013. I have been fortunate to work with a wide variety of clients in my career, from large corporations with global reach, to regional niche boutiques, to locally owned businesses just down the street.