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Ethical and Legal Considerations

Annette Flanagin

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PRINTED FROM AMA MANUAL OF STYLE ONLINE ( © American Medical Association, 2009. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the license agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in AMA Manual of Style Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).  Subscriber: null; date: 30 November 2015


An advertorial is an ad that imitates editorial content or presents content in an editorial-like format, such as using text, tables, or figures in a manner similar to the journal’s editorial content. During the early 1990s, following a decline in the biomedical advertising market, advertorials became more common. The ASME developed guidelines for special advertising sections,27 which may help a publication maintain its integrity if it publishes advertorials (see Table 3).

Table 3. ASME Guidelines for Special Advertising Sectionsa

  1. 1. Each page of special advertising must be clearly and conspicuously identified as a message paid for by advertisers.

  2. 2. To identify special advertising sections clearly and conspicuously:

    1. A. The words advertising, advertisement, or special advertising section should appear prominently at or near the top of every page of such sections containing text, in type at least equal in size and weight to the publication’s normal editorial body typeface. (The word advertorial should not be used.)

    2. B. The layout, design, and type of such sections should be distinctly different from the publication’s normal layout, design, and typefaces.

    3. C. Special advertising sections should not be slugged on the publication’s cover or included in the editorial table of contents.

    4. D. If the sponsor or organizer of the section is not the publisher, the sponsor should be clearly identified.

  3. 3. The editors' names and titles should not appear on, or be associated with, special advertising sections, nor should the names and titles of any other staff members or of regular contributors to the publication appear or be associated with special advertising sections. The publication’s name or logo should not appear as any part of the headlines or text of such sections.

  4. 4. Editors and other editorial staff members should not prepare advertising sections for their own publication, for other publications in their field, or for advertisers in the fields they cover.

  5. 5. For the publication’s chief editor to have the opportunity to monitor compliance with these guidelines, material for special advertising sections should be made available to the publication’s editor in ample time to review and recommend necessary changes. Monitoring would include reading the text of special advertising sections before publication for problems of fact, interpretation, and taste and for compliance with any relevant laws.

  6. 6. To avoid potential conflicts or overlaps with editorial content, publishers should notify editors well in advance of their plans to run special advertising sections.

  7. 7. The size and number of special advertising sections within a single issue should not be out of balance with the size and nature of the magazine.

a Adapted and reprinted with permission from the American Society of Magazine Editors.27

Companies may submit advertisements that provide information on a topic pertaining to a product the company markets (or plans to market) but that do not name any commercial product. It is essential that such ads are clearly labeled “Advertisement,” have a different format from the journal’s editorial content, and include a prominent display of the company name and/or logo so that readers can quickly ascertain that the information is an advertisement from the company and is not part of the journal’s editorial content.

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