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,

Dan Trepanier

Photography by Alex Crawford.

  • Caboom

    Dan, I just want to say. I truly appreciate your professionalism and your hustle. I’ve also been following this ever-evolving blog for a few years now. Keep it up! The guys in this thread are awesome (long time readers). Really enjoy coming here on a regular basis for inspiration.

    Cheers and Happy 2016!

  • Me

    This comment is a little funny to me since this is pretty much the first non quasi-advertorial article that you have posted ever since launching your own so called online bespoke brand. You have all the right to do it, but I have to call you out on the hypocrisy.

    This blog was full of amateur style advice and plagiarism (the most vivid one was the copy/pasted solaro fabric article) before you had to devote your time to finally financially take advantage of the followers you had acquired over time. Ever since launching your own line, 99% of the articles are titled as before and pretending to stay within the same philosophy of the blog as before until you click on the article and you see all the self advertising disguised as same old style advice articles. I was going to write some examples now but I dont’t think that is necessary since you can click on the articles and my point would be evident.

    This is still understandable as this is a self-fulfilling cycle; write, gain followers, sell, advertise, sell, advertise. This could be many blogers’ dream, and I give you props for that, but you are not much different than the people you are criticizing here. You are the evolution of this process. Instead of getting paid by many brands like this guys, now you are essentially getting paid by yourself to aggressively advertise yourself. If you wanted to save the moral integrity of the blog and maintain your high ground, you should have avoided the derailment of your blog towards self-advertisement.

    I suppose now you will point to the quality of your garment and your revolutionary ways of doing business, but I apologize for calling you out of this. This “online bespoke” thing is just a gimmik for the used-to-be-less-informed followers of yours that you have uplifted from wearing basketball shoes on a daily basis. What you do is MTM at worst and custom made at best. I have been going to my family tailor, who used to be the tailor for the last Crown Prince of Persia (Reza Pahlavi), since I was A kid. I can go to as many fittings as I wish and I can voice my opinion on any detail that I wish. Can I ask you for 8.35 cm lapel width with a 70 degree angle on the notch lapel? Can my trousers be double pleated with the inner one being a forward pleat and the outer one a backward pleat with a 5.25 cm turn up? If the answer is no, then this is not a bespoke service you are providing, and if you excuse yourself with the limitations of your operation through internet then you have proved my point of your service being just a new generation gimmick. If the answer to all of those questions are yes, the I sincerely apologize.

    This is the beauty of internet: you can freely blog, and I can freely respond. Sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings but I had to mention this.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Thanks for your comment, “me”. Although I think you may have missed the point of this article.

      While advertorial-backed content providers have no choice but to advise their followers to spend money on fast fashion (like suits from Urban Outfitters: we’ve dedicated 2 years to developing products that we can advise our readers to invest in long-term, because they are in-line with our core message and ethos as a brand (quality over quantity, local craftsmanship with integrity, real fitting expertise, versatile design, personal styling advice, etc).

      This ultimately means we no longer have to compromise on our recommendations or advice in order to promote products from advertising brands. This (fast fashion advertising) is a new problem which we believe is destroying our planet; culturally, aesthetically, and environmentally. Please read:

      The answer to your questions is yes. We are a full-service tailor shop that can accommodate the particular needs of all of our clients. Although we’ve find that most clients would rather have professionals take care of their wardrobes, hence the stripping-down of the traditional custom offering. Regardless, in my opinion it’s always better to ask a question rather than making an un-researched back-handed comment filled with assumptions…

      Nevertheless, I look forward to serving you as a client and proving our value to you, even the most discerning of clients.

      Happy Holidays,


      • Me

        Hey Dan,

        I apologize for the last comment to you and your readers. Honestly, my brain and stomach were swimming in scotch, which does not agree with me often. I have been following your blog, regardless of my thoughts, for a while. You influence others and I want to be up to date with the evolution of influencers like you and many others.

        But since I have cornered myself in this position, let me tersely expand on my point, which is two fold:

        1) It is beyond debate that your blog has lost its essence since launching your line. Now it is just a medium to direct clicks from AOS to AOS shop. It is your right and I understand it, but I wish you had handled it differently. All the articles that you have quoted from the past that have formulated your ideology are entirely non-existent these days. This is the only article that comes close to those on surface, but deep down you are just trying to differentiate yourself and your product from the advertorials. I think your definition of elitist needs to be broadened. Instead of advertising for five brands that pay for the space, you are now aggressively advertising for a single brand that happens to be yours. This is what I called the evolution of the advertorials-lets call it blogtisement. My point remains.

        Just one example: you were going to walk your readers step by step through hand making a tobacco linen suit (an essence-defining article for your blog) but you have lost track of that ever since you became too busy and distracted with advertising your own half-canvassed suits.

        Please write your blog as you used to, which has helped you become who you are today. Preserve that and find another way to advertise your product. Or at least don’t make it feel like you are exclusively advertising.

        2) I am a little confused about your line of clothing now. You tell me you can make me an 8.25 cm wide notch lapel with a 75 degree angle. So why do you have descriptions about each suit, “this is offered in 2 buttons with notch lapel, etc. and this kind of trouser.” Shouldn’t I be the one telling you this from scratch if this is a truly bespoke service? You obviously have pre-designed patterns that you will tweak a bit. This is custom made at best.

        Please let me refer to your own words. On the article titled “Getting the fit right: pattern-making 101,” a gentlemen named Jose Torres writes in the comment section the following:

        “Interested to see how customisable your suits will be in regards to the lapels.”

        To which you answer the following:

        “Thanks for your comment Jose. Our garments are all designed by yours truly, and won’t be offered with lapel customizations. Think of it like being designer menswear, but with a bespoke fitting process. More soon!”

        Need I say more? Come on man…we went to the same college and I hold you to higher standards than that.

        Yes, this is my terse!! Answer in 1′) and 2′) if you don’t mind.

        • Dan Trepanier

          I appreciate the apologies, anonymous Columbia grad.

          1) Stay tuned, the evolution of AOS has just begun. I think you’ll appreciate some of the content we have coming up.

          2) As noted, you can email us with any personal garment requests: Although, I would personally advise against the oversized notch lapel that you are thinking about (unless you are a large gentleman). I generally advise against clients trying to play “menswear designer” or employ current trends into their long-term wardrobes. This ensures that each of our clients is investing in classic American garments that will last the test of time and provide maximum wearability/versatility. When I was new to bespoke I “designed” all kinds of wide lapels with specifics angles, shapes, button stances, etc, etc – now I have dozens of expensive garments that collect dust in my closet, since I feel much more comfortable in traditional menswear silhouettes.

          Thanks for the debate.

          – Dan

        • tommyjohn_45

          What’s changed? Other than AOS featuring their own brand vs. various others? If that’s your concern, you’re missing the fundamental concept of this blog. Whether the AOS team writes a post featuring H&M, Tom Ford or AOS, it’s the context of the article that readers should be focusing on – and that remains true today as it did on 2009.

          Over the past month alone, they’ve covered seasonal fabrics, ‘how to’ advice, ‘ask Dan’, casual alternatives, formal alternatives, featured editorials and a gift guide (to name a few)… How does that differ from the TSB days?

          • Dan Trepanier

            TOMMYJOHN FOR THE WIN!!!!

            Thx Plyr


    100% agree.

    • Bengjay

      Waiting for a response from Dan here. He seems awfully quiet…

      • Dan Trepanier

        Thanks Bangjay! Sorry my response took 17hours…been traveling with family for Christmas and such. Cheers mate.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Thanks player.

  • Kyle Leon Norville

    It’s amazing how changes are seen over time. I literally had this conversation with my gf about the decline of magazines like GQ in terms of content. I recently stopped subscribing , deciding to simply buy the fall/winter or spring/summer look books, which cater to what I desire. I think it is ok to explore other issues. But if I want a turkey sandwich, and i’m getting one slice of turkey and triple the amount of lettuce and cheese, i’m going to another deli. Lol ( i’m hungry)

  • LarsBrown.

    Discussed this briefly with TO in your last thread about this. Since GQ and Esquire have lost my interest I take great pleasure in finding magazines that still adhear to the quality and values I expect from such a publication. Monocle and Port magazines are the only ones to come close and the others I’ve tried are boarderline pretentious.

    • TO

      Did you see my above comment, LarsBrown?

      • LarsBrown.

        I didn’t my man, I’m just repeating what you said – my bad. Haven’t seen the other GQ mag you’re talking about but it sounds awful. Monocle are very clever, I think they attract a very broad readership – much more so than GQ now.

        • TO

          Nono it wasn’t cuz I thought you were repeating what I said, was wondering if ya had heard of the new mag :)

  • Speakingthetruth

    All due respect it does seem a little funny coming from someone who owes their start to winning a contest on Esquire doesn’t it? Still totally agree with you, though I am not a fan of how much you specifically push your clothing now, wish it were more broad.

    • LarsBrown.

      I get the impression that the content here will revert to a broader variety of brands again pretty soon. Can’t blame the guys for being excited about the stuff they’re creating! The best thing about Dan (and the rest, I’m sure) is his insistance on explaining exactly why he’s doing what he’s doing.

    • Dan Trepanier

      I don’t owe Esquire magazine anything.

      I was blogging before that contest and wasn’t even included in the magazine when I won. They were also selling ads against that very competition – which included a series of branded content I had to do for their advertisers… Then I had to pay $10K in taxes for prizes from Kenneth Cole and other fast fashion products that I didn’t even want… Cmon’ man, if you’re gonna use the name “Speakingthetruth”, you should at least know the truth before you speak…

      As far as content goes. I agree 100%. Stay tuned, plenty broadness coming your way.


  • Mike

    Dan and the AOS team, thanks for your honest dedication to the end user (both readers and consumers) and your contributions towards fixing the fashion industry.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Our pleasure Mike. Thanks for reading and caring!

  • Jake

    Even look at Ireland for example, I work for a magazine called Men’s Fashion Ireland doing graphic design, photography and print. We are Ireland’s only dedicated menswear magazine with 6 people working on it and not taking a penny for print advertising.

    Working in social media as my full time job it’s amazing to see the difference in print vs. digital and how the audience engages. I believe in the death of the advertorial and highly encourage true, opinion based content.

    Readers are not dumb, we spot an advert from a country mile. If you want to build a community, you need provoking, well thought out, beautiful and curated content. Otherwise people don’t engage.

    Dan, if you’d like I can send you some copies of what we are doing here both in print and online publishing. Would be great to see how it with fits to this piece and would love your insight.

  • Tom

    let the motherf’r burn!

  • TO

    I was talking to another reader when you brought this up a little while ago and we mentioned how a magazine like Monocle might(-?) be setting itself apart from other men’s magazines by looking for a more diverse approach with content and business strategy… Then GQ announced a new Quarterly (ha!) magazine covering ‘high’ fashion (…like GQ’s clothes haven’t gotten high fashion enough) and broader content such as lifestyle, travel, etc.– are they taking inspiration from a Monocle, what’s going on here?

  • Esosa

    Amen, brother, Amen…I cant even remember the last time I looked at a GQ or Esquire Magazine..GQ lost me around 2011 or so when they really started pushing the ultra cropped pants trend..

    • TO

      Somewhere after that they lost a lot of my attention when they started to insist on the nearly ‘painted-on’ pants… and super short suit jackets.

      Ultimately it took me taking a step back and with the help of other sources, such as AOS, to help me get a broader perspective in these areas.

      I still enjoy some aspects of GQ- they have produced some, in my opinion, really quality video content over the last several years, which is now very hit-or-miss. I still often browse over their editorial outfits for interesting garment/color combinations, with a large grain of salt mindset on fit.