Advertorial Publicity, A Tale of Cowboy Love

AdvertorialsDoes this sound familiar?
You been approached by a media outlet and they love what you do, they’ve heard great things about your business, looked at your website, or “driven past”, and been intrigued, amazed, and awed. Naturally you’re thrilled that someone is interested in publicity about you and your business but there’s a catch, you’ll have to pay for the story or buy an advert and only then they will write a story about you? There’s not much time before publication and they’ve only got one space left at a discounted rate so you better make up your mind quickly.

Sorry to burst your bubble but your ego will need to take a step back here, this is advertorial. The reason is simply “Ka-ching!” and there’s plenty of cowboys at this rodeo. Don’t get me wrong, not all advertorial is all bad, and to reach some niche markets it might be the only avenue you’ve got. So how do you decide if it’s really worth the dollars? Ask questions and be sceptical at their claims, your marketing dollar is worth it and you need to be in the saddle holding the reigns. Consider these points:

  • How big is your love? What are their distribution or preferably readership numbers? What’s the readership demographic? Has it been audited or surveyed?
  • Do my friends approve? Have you heard of the magazine before? If no ask them to send you a copy and assess the quality for yourself, or ask an industry peer if they’ve had experience with them
  • Is there a tastier alternative? Identify another advertising option, one which you like or which you  have deem to be similar, check their performance and look at the price difference

Be prepared before you saddle up, you want a thoroughbred not an ass that only moves for money.   Had any Cowboy experiences? Let us know.

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10 Comments

  1. Eric Hatch February 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    In the years since the dawn of time when I started writing professionally, I’ve written a number of filmscripts and two (just that) advertorials. One was for P&G, the other for a major chemical company. In both cases, I went out, did the research, talked to people, and produced material which, though oriented towards the goal of the sponsor, did not in any way misrepresent or exaggerate the conclusions in the article.

    Here’s my point: if you’re going to be a whore, be an honest one! Advertorials that require chicanery or untruths of any sort are not the sort of thing ethical travel (or other) writers will touch.

  2. Robyn Bolton February 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    The most consistent comment I have heard from tourism operators over the years is “how do you know which publications to advertise with” and the second most common one is “I have wasted thousands of dollars over the years on advertising”.

    Ive found that the longer an operator is involved in the tourism industry the less likely they are to fall for these approaches – so make sure that the colleague you ask has been in business for a while. Also be sure to ask your RTO they have had plenty of experience at this!

  3. Daniel Bridges February 25, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    For me, print advertising has to chin a very high bar to win the battle for my advertising dollar. When there are so many 100% traceable online advertising options, it is difficult to justify print by comparison.

  4. Simon McManus February 26, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    Great to get valuable feedback on my first post. Let me say this while I’m firmly in the PR camp, I’ll stand up and say I never outright reject advertising, print or otherwise, it has it’s place. (Keeping the media afloat for one!) Web has definitely introduced a whole new level of measure ability which is accessible to SMEs, fantastic.

    Ideally you consider a comprehensive approach using all elements of the marketing mix, including the dreaded advertising and advertorial, it will pay off and you can see that in your stats, whether from your website or in feedback.

  5. Campbell Harris March 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    I agree with Daniel. The biggest hurdle for any offline magazine (or the general print media) is their ability to provide (independent) statistics or some sort of proof of success.

    I get approached daily by these organisations – but what I’m really waiting for is a company to say “I’ll give you half a page this month, if it works for you then I hope we can do business.”

    And I would…if it worked.

    This will only work for the magazines if they do their homework & only approach companies that fit well with their demographic – oh yea, and they have to have a good mag to start with.

  6. Simon McManus March 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Campbell, wouldn’t that just be Utopia? Where everyone comes to you with absolute proven results and offers a free trial, no strings attached!? The overheads for the offline publishers, in their dog eat dog media industry, make that an impossible ask.

    Back in reality it may take time, but it’s up to you folks, (or a consultant) to do the donkey work and decide the best way to spend your marketing dollar.

    By the way, the closest I’ve ever seen to your Utopia was the monopolistic billionaires at Google Adwords, offering a $75 credit to new signups, not bad! But I guess even with their whizz-bang measurement tools, how many “conversions” do you get per dollar spent?

  7. Peter Blackwell March 5, 2010 at 8:13 am #

    It just seems the people who have a vested interest in the world of the Internet are so simplistic. Sure it is measurable, either at a visitor or transactional level but we need to be a little more balanced. It is not the only way people find us.

    Look at the HAPNZ research this week. 56% of domestic visitors plan a holiday with a printed guide and 26% will not use the internet – tough to ignore that audience because it is not measurable.

    It is always about smart marketing and working with businesses that take genuine ownership of putting your message in front of your target audience. Perhaps too we need to recognise that most of our industry never ask a person on the end of a phone where they found the number.

    AA is the biggest tourism publisher, the biggest provider of GPS mapping and beyond TNZ have the most viewed tourism content online. It is about having the right media and, as I have to reprint another 500,000 visitor guides this year, I can assure you that consumers find printed product convenient, informative and often easier to use and make a decision than the internet.

  8. Tessa Clarke March 5, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Peter to a certain extent I agree with you, however in this day of restricted weights on flights, IPhones with ablity to book instantly and the fact that a lot of us travel on the spur of the moment, the internet is the best way to travel. I travelled through Europe for the past year and not once did I book through a holiday guide..it was all online. The only time I used a holiday guide was as a souvenir tool for my travel diary.

  9. Simon McManus March 8, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Thanks Tessa and Peter for your input, the topic has drifted a little from advertorial but you’ve brought up some great topics to be addressed in future posts.

    Not wanting to stand on the fence here, sadly there is no winning formula to marketing every tourism business. All tourism businesses need to remember that travel is personal and target markets are markedly different in their behaviors. So not everybody uses the internet, not everybody takes a guidebook, not everybody uses a travel agent.

    Don’t be closed minded in your approach just because you have your own preference. Your marketing mix should be organic and rarely rely solely on one form of marketing.

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