Those who know Marine Café Blog well enough know that we don’t use advertorials – i.e., advertisements designed to look like news articles or features about certain products, companies or persons. Editorial space in this blog is free, and we’d like to keep it that way. We have a separate space for banner ads. Still, advertorials are the name of the game. They’re all over the place, occupying prime real estate in the media landscape, a huge source of revenues for publishers. We can understand why.
Unlike a press release, an advertorial is paid for. This means the company paying for it has control over the length of the copy, what it contains and even where the article is to be positioned on the page if it’s a printed newspaper or magazine. The writing may be done by the company’s PR staff, outsourced to hack writers (nowadays euphemistically called “content writers”) or, as often happens in Manila, handled by one of the target publication’s staff writers. The bottom-line is that the advertorial should convey only positive things about the company and its product.
And there lies the problem. Writers need to be objective, not an easy task when you have to please a paying client. The unfortunate result is that many advertorials end up as puff pieces – flattering to the company but lacking in credibility. Even the best written advertorial won’t be as convincing as an article written by a journalist or blogger with a genuine interest in the subject of the write-up. Intelligent readers, of course, can tell if it’s an advertisement being presented as a legitimate news story or feature.
The issue goes beyond style or presentation. We object to the use of advertorials in the maritime or mainstream media because they’re usually not marked as advertisements. They are thus a form of deceit to readers. We used to write for a British industry journal which was using its front cover to promote certain companies and their products. It was a subtle form of advertising, and readers were none the wiser. In the final analysis, advertorials wipe out the distinction between editorial and advertising space. When you sell editorial space, what happens then to editorial integrity? ~Barista Uno
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