Do advertorials ever really work?

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

And why did Standard Bank go down that road?

Standard Bank took an advertorial in Business Day last week to announce its new brand positioning - “It can be”. It was a surprising move and begs the question as to whether advertorials ever effective as a tactic? And in today's media landscape there are better options available.

It was surprising on a few levels.

One. Usually you reach for the advertorial when you can't get a story published - and mostly, I would argue, that's a good reason to desist. If a publication won't publish then they believe there’s no interest for it amongst their audience. In this case why would Business Day readers care about Standard Bank’s new pay off line?

Two. Context. It's very clear that you’re pushing your own line; and your advertorial lives alongside a host of other stories written by journalists, that are fact checked and ‘impartial’. So you start to stand out and not necessarily for the best reasons. (The Chinese embassy uses advertorials frequently to present their case on issues; most recently their performance on managing the Corona virus on the Chinese mainland.)

Three. Mostly advertorials never look good - dense text, poorly laid out and aimed at highlighting it is not the media house’s copy or story. It seldom screams ‘read me’, which is ironic as that's the aim. In Standard Bank’s case it was laid out a little better but then confusingly included an image of their CMO; which to me smacked a little of hubris, or perhaps the cult of personality (and most unlike the Standard Bank we know). Usually it’s government departments that use this tactic - a picture of the boss accompanying a story.

I would be interested to know who took the decision to run the advertorial - advertising or communications. It feels like the former here; but more importantly, what could have been done better?

Firstly, tell your own story on your own platforms where you have a community that's interested in what you do. But the same rule applies - make sure it is a compelling story of interest.

Secondly, look at ways to leverage that story across all your shared (social media) platforms along with pitching a version of it to the media and communities that do care about the issue. In the case of Standard Bank -it would be of interest to marketing and advertising media (which they did do but presumably it wasn't enough).

Thirdly, really start to dig deep and think about how this new positioning improves the business offering and then land it in Business Day as a compelling editorial story written by them.

Lastly, put some paid social behind the story to get in front of audiences who care, driving them back to you to buy what it is you are selling.

This is best practice PR thinking, based on the PESO model that drives impactful campaigns benefiting the bottom line.

Or to paraphrase their payoff line: It Can Be ... done better.

Get in touch with us if you want your communication done better too.

(Disclaimer: Standard Bank was a client of ours for many happy years)

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