Advertorials differ from publicity advertisements because the marketer must pay a fee to the media company for the ad placement, whereas publicity is placed without payment to the media company and with no control over the copy. Most publications will not accept advertisements that look exactly like stories from the newspaper or magazine they are appearing in. The differences may be subtle, and disclaimers—such as the word "advertisement"—may or may not appear. Sometimes euphemisms describing the advertorial as a "special promotional feature" or the like is used.
Advertorials commonly advertise new products or techniques—such as a new design for golf equipment or a new form of laser surgery. The tone is usually closer to that of a press release than of an objective news story: advertisers will not spend money to describe the flaws of their products.
Advertorials can also be printed and presented as an entire newspaper section, inserted the same way within a newspaper as store fliers, comics sections, and other non-editorial content. These sections are most often seen within newspapers such as USA Today, and are usually printed on a smaller type of broadsheet and different newsprint than the actual paper.
Many newspapers and magazines will assign staff writers or freelancers to write advertorials, usually without a byline credit. A major difference between regular editorial and advertorial is that clients usually have content approval of advertorials, a luxury usually not provided with regular editorial.
A related practice is the creation of material that looks like traditional media (for instance, a newspaper or magazine) which is in fact created by a company to market its products. One familiar example are airline in-flight magazines which usually feature reports about travel destinations to which the airline flies. Some editors expect readers themselves to spot the commercial interests that lie behind a supposedly disinterested contributor, whilst a few are seeking signed declarations from untrusted journalists offering apparently skewed reportage
Product placement is another form of non-obvious paid-for advertising. This strategy was first popularized during the energy crisis of the 1970s. Mobil Oil felt its efforts to gets its side of the story out through the American press was failing. Political and media advisor Fred Dutton developed a strategy to publish Mobil Oil's opinion as an advertisement on editorial pages across the country. The strategy proved successful in getting its message out to both the public as well as politicians and Mobil Oil quickly became identified with this unique advertising strategy.