Advertorials can be highly effective engagement tools. A good advertorial will have synergy with the editorial environment in which it is placed, thereby capturing the audience when in a receptive frame of mind to the advertiser’s message.

The brand’s credibility is heightened because of its integration within a trusted source of information, in this case the respondent’s newspaper of choice. The Irish Times audience has cited newspapers as the most trusted source of advertising, other than recommendation from a friend. Theoretically, advertorials should obtain a strong positive response from our audience.

Since 2005, The Irish Times has used RAM’s ad testing system for measuring advertising effectiveness (more information at www.rampanel.com). Our audience panel has 1,400 members. To date, we have 273 advertisement surveys in the RAM database for sector/ad size/demographic comparison and benchmarking. Our panel is weighted against the Joint National Readership Survey so is representative of The Irish Times readership in total (339,000 average issue readers as per JNRS/Lansdowne 2010).

Panel research using RAM’s ad hoc survey tool revealed that 61% of our readers budget more carefully for grocery shopping compared to last year. Another key issue for readers in regards to grocery shopping is to support Irish produce: 75% cite buying local produce as “very important” to them.

In light of this information and the fact that advertorials marked a new departure for the newspaper, we tested audience response to an Aldi advertorial which ran in Saturday Magazine of The Irish Times. Saturday Magazine is the newspaper’s weekend lifestyle supplement, with an AIR of 368,000. Its main shopper profile is extremely strong, at 64% of readership.

Aldi’s advertorial detailed the retailer’s success at the National Irish Food Awards and featured images of their winning Irish produce (click the image above to see a larger version).

Audience response was overwhelming: Aldi’s advertorial achieved the best-ever purchase intention score among our readers. Of the readers who noticed the ad, 61% agreed they bought or would buy something after seeing it. Below is Aldi’s ranking in relation to all our other tested ads, where the “have bought/will buy question” was implemented.

The x axis is “have bought/will buy” while the y axis is “brand linkage” (the percentage that found it easy to identify the sender of the ad and/or had a very good previous knowledge of the advertiser). The size of the bubble represents advertisement observation.

One of RAM’s advantages is the ability to add on “open questions,” enabling the publisher to obtain more qualitative insight into reader response. We asked readers to comment on the ad if they wished. A selection of their feedback is below:

A surprise ad for Aldi but a welcome one. (female, 43)

Very informative about quality Irish produce. Pictures very clear. Liked the box/column down right hand side with specific details. (female, 48)

It’s great to see Irish producers winning awards and great that ALDI is buying their goods too. (female, 62)

Completely new information that so many of the Aldi products come from local suppliers - great ad! (female, 34)

Found it interesting and it did change my view of Aldi. (male, 48)

Was delighted to see they are sourcing Irish products! (female, 58)

Ad caught my attention easily, I read it all and although there is no Aldi in my town, I will seek one out. (male, 57)

RAM consistently proves itself as a highly effective tool in measuring brand awareness and return of investment. In the case of Aldi, we were able to present overwhelming proof of ROI. In the current climate, the advantage in offering our advertisers real-time ad testing and fast turnaround of results cannot be overstated.