Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

The Use of Advertorials in Women's and Teens' Fashion Magazines, Pre- and Post-Recession

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

The Use of Advertorials in Women's and Teens' Fashion Magazines, Pre- and Post-Recession

Article excerpt


The use of print ads designed to look like the editorial content of the publication in which they are contained, known as advertorials, is a long-standing practice in print advertising. Because of their potential to mislead the viewer into thinking that the content of the advertisement comes from the publisher rather than the advertiser, advertorials have been the subject of considerable scrutiny (Hausknecht, Wilkinson & Prough, 1991; Sandler & Secunda, 1993; Kim, Pasadeos & Barban, 2001). In spite of only indirect evidence of their effectiveness and concern over potential deceptiveness, the format has not only persisted but appears to have grown more popular over time (Stout, Wilcox & Greer, 1989; Ju-Pak, Kim & Cameron, 1995).

Advertorials are particularly common in magazine advertising (Donaton, 1992). In a study of advertorials in seven different magazine formats, Ju-Pak et al. (1995) found that women's magazines had the highest number of advertorials, with fashion magazine Glamour carrying, on average, the most per issue. In addition to the relative abundance of advertorials in fashion magazines, the fashion magazine presents an interesting study of the boundaries between paid promotion and editorial content because of the nature of the editorial content of these magazines. Unlike other magazine formats, the editorial content in fashion magazines is itself largely focused on product news and advice--content very similar to much of advertising. In fact, much of the content in a fashion magazine mentions brand names and buying information, creating a perfect context for an editorial-style advertisement.

Although the fashion and beauty magazine genre is dominated by magazines for adult women, there are also magazines for teen girls in the category. Magazines aimed at teen girls have generated concern on the part of consumer advocates due to the vulnerable nature of the teen market. Although teens may look and behave as adults in many respects, their cognitive abilities are not fully developed, and there is evidence to support that understanding of advertising tactics is still developing in teens (Bousch, Friestad & Rose, 1994). As many consider advertorials to be inherently deceptive--enough so to require disclosure--their usage in teen magazines is of particular interest.

According to the Magazine Publishers Association (2011a), magazine audiences grew faster than newspaper or television audiences between 2006 and 2011. Nonetheless, the industry was hit hard by the 2007-2008 recession. Magazine ad spending declined 7.6% in 2008 and 19.3% in 2009 before beginning a slow recovery (Nielsen, 2009; 2010; 2011). The recession not only affected ad spending, but also advertising strategies. Among the changes, according to one study (Lee, Taylor & Chung, 2011), was a shift from away from transformational to more informational ad messages, message approach well-suited to the advertorial format.

In light of the advertorial-friendly content of fashion and beauty magazines, the special issues inherent in advertising to younger audiences, and the tough economic environment facing magazines, the purpose of this study is to compare the prevalence and usage of advertorials in women's and teens' fashion magazines in the U.S., before and after the economic downturn of 2007.


As defined by Cameron, Ju-Pak & Kim (1996, p. 722), an advertorial is a "paid-for, commercial message, featuring any object or objects (such as products services, organization, individuals, ideas, issues etc.) that simulates the editorial content of a publication in terms of design/structure, visual/verbal content, and/or context in which it appears." Advertorials are sometimes described as a print equivalent to the more familiar infomercial, a program length commercial which is designed to look like television programming. Advertorials and infomercials can be seen as belonging to a larger category of promotional communication that "blurs the boundaries" (Sandler & Secunda, 1993) between paid promotion and content, a category that includes product placement and certain types of sponsorships (e. …

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