The Death of the Advertorial
December 17th, 2015
When DETAILS magazine closed it’s doors a couple weeks ago, it got the whole industry buzzing.
In my opinion this represents a win for the little guy; the bloggers and independant media outlets who continue to provide quality content un-affected by corporate publishers or big money advertising. Ultimately this slow-but-radical shift represents the power of online media, the growth of personal branding, and the specialization of editorial content (and fashion) occurring among a new generation of informed consumers.
The old structure of for-profit editorial magazines is struggling, for a number of reasons. It’s an industry that profits from a gross lack of transparency and, frankly, isn’t good for any participant involved:
The readers can no longer justify paying for a book that is 70% pure advertorial pages, 20% sponsored content (which are also paid ads), with perhaps 10% reserved for opinion pieces and actual journalism. With so many free blogs sharing real-life experience and un-paid opinions, it seems silly to collect this advertising paper.
The writers are no longer interested in working in this sponsor-controlled environment, producing “advertorials” that must include the name of the sponsoring brand 2-3 times per 500 word story. This can explain the high turn-over at magazines, and why brands like GQ (a long time favorite of mine) have completely lost their editorial voice or sense of who their target demographic actually is, or actually wants.
The advertisers can no longer justify paying $20,000 per page when they can spend a quarter of that online for the same number of impressions, with the added benefit of detailed analytics reports to track their campaigns in great detail. If you buy an ad online, not only can you direct it at a very specific niche demographic, but you also get a live report of how many people visited your website, what percentage purchased, how long they stayed, what they looked at, why they left, etc.
The publishers, due to the dwindling supply of advertisers still willing to pay for their print ads, are now required to adhere to even more demands from sponsoring brands. When you had fifteen potential timepiece brands to chose from, you could be subtle with the “watch of the season” paid placement, but when Fossil is the only brand willing to pay your ad price…of course the new Fossil watch is the season’s “must have”.
Now let’s consider the environment. Take a second to imaging an industrial paper mill, and an industrial printing plant, churning out millions of copies of monthly magazines. Once these books are printed they are shipped on trucks and boats all around the world, where they sit on newsstands for 3-4 weeks. Those that go un-sold are shipped back around the world to the original publisher if not shipped directly to a recycling plant or trash facility… One monthly issue goes out, another monthly issue takes its place, and the endless cycle of advertising emissions continues.
As bloggers, we are the little guys. It’s important that we as independent publishers continue to promote free ideas and honest opinions. That’s the beauty of blogging and why it become so popular; it’s an anti-commercial voice in a media landscape so heavily dominated by only a few major advertisers. This was the reason we, at AOS, decided to drop all advertising and focus on developing our own products that are directly in-line with our ethos and point-of-view as a brand (honest researched advice, quality over quantity, domestic craftsmanship, lasting anti-trend design, etc). Sure, we still entertain a sponsorship from time to time, but only from brands that we genuinely recommend and that compliment our regular editorial calendar, rather than disrupt it (our recent campaigns for Gillette and Tide come to mind; both brands that I’ve been using for 10+ years).
With that said, I’m very excited about our next generation of content and how the access to quality manufacturing will drastically improve our editorial abilities. We can design pieces to feed our specific editorial calendar (rather than seeing what we could find on the market first), we have a partnership with one of America’s oldest clothing factories which will allow us to ramp-up our Menswear 101 articles on craftsmanship and historical significance, and we can share the unique stories of our Profiles featuring their own clothing side-by-side with their own custom designs. Of course, we will always continue to feature products from other brands that we love and from designers who share similar values regarding lasting, conscious menswear.
In conclusion…sure I love dressing-up and looking fly, but I’m much more excited and proud to be part of a new era of clothing production and advertising distribution that is systematically built to provide transparency. As consumers, especially consumers of classic menswear, we’ve been perpetually confused and kept on the spinning wheel of trends for far too long. The best thing we can do to help people dress, look and feel better is to educate them on what they’re actually spending their money on.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Yours in style,
Photography by Alex Crawford.