What is an advertorial?

Watchtower Jehovah's Witnesses holding literature

by Barbara Anderson

It’s the name for a paid advertisement that turns up in the media, i.e. websites, magazines, or newspapers written by a staff writer or generally by the one who paid for it to be published. This is a common practice as publishers use different ways of generating revenue to stay afloat financially.

The style and form of an advertorial is of an editorial that appears to feature newsworthy and relevant information, but remember it’s really a paid ad. Is this ethical? The experts say if it looks like an editorial but is really promoting, plugging or advocating something such as a product or service then it’s not ethical. 

Robert Hendriks is the U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) and a master at producing advertorials that look like newspaper editorials. Here is a recent advertorial (Nov. 16, 2021) that JW’s are paying for to promote their religion.

“The history of Christianity is that stumbling blocks become stepping stones,” said United States spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses Robert Hendriks. “We shut down every aspect of our in-person ministry and every aspect of our in-person meetings and every aspect of our in-person convention.” … “We’re writing letters and making phone calls to our neighbors,” said Lori Sutton. “We’re reaching a lot of people this way.”

“We’ve learned how to do our ministry, we’ve learned how to do virtual meetings, we’ve learned how to do conventions, we’ve learned how to translate on a massive scale,” Hendriks said. https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/jehovahs-witnesses-altering-how-they-spread-their-message-of-faith-as-pandemic-lingers

Or this advertorial, “Jehovah’s Witness global event goes virtual,” announcing JW’s conventions, published July 1, 2001 online in the Wellness section of our hometown paper, The Tullahoma, TN News.

 “Faith has helped our global brotherhood to continue to thrive even during a pandemic,” said Robert Hendriks for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Our faith will continue to unite us in worship – even virtually – as millions gather in private homes around the world to enjoy a powerful and inspiring spiritual program.”  https://www.tullahomanews.com/news/local/jehovah-s-witness-global-event-goes-virtual/article_576c622e-da93-11eb-91b2-270a588894b4.html

Information such as in these advertorials might sound newsworthy to catch attention, but, experience has shown that the general public doesn’t give a fig about what JW’s are involved with. The exception might be to learn they won’t be awakened on Saturday morning anymore by JW’s knocking on their doors.

 In reality, it’s the JW’s that are the happiest when reading these advertorials because they know promotions like this replace the need for them to engage physically in the house-to-house ministry. Now they can sleep late on Saturday morning too and also stay home on Sunday mornings and virtually ZOOM what Hendriks called a “powerful and inspiring spiritual program” most likely with the audio on and video off. That means no longer having to dress up and drive to evening meeting places twice weekly.

Even if advertorials are made to look like relevant newsworthy editorials but in actual fact are paid advertisements advocating a religion, which is not quite an ethical thing to do, for JW’s it couldn’t be an easier way to promote their god! As a final note, the consensus has it – the majority of JW’s ABSOLUTELY love the virtual way to worship.

NEW – The following article is an example of one of JW’s latest paid advertisements (advertorial) that quotes Watchtower’s U. S. spokesman, Robert Hendriks:


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I’ve been watching for those paid ads. Years ago, I emailed a journalist who didn’t realize he had been “bought”. He replied admitting he was embarrassed to be “used” that way. It’s quite different now, apparently. Now, it’s much more commercial than those years ago, where individual journalists were contacted. The ad I’m thinking of is one where the journalist actually went door-to-door with some JWs. Maybe someone else remembers this particular ad?

Al Smith

Al Smith

Thinking back on it, I was too brainwashed to have accepted this “form of worship”, though admittedly enjoyed my breaks from the field ministry at times. Who wouldn’t enjoy sleeping in mornings, instead of facing the skeptical public with an unpopular message? Having been free from this cult since the 90’s, this article gave me some hope, in that maybe some who are still trapped in it, will wake up to the fact that going through the motions of Christianity this way, is not the reason to remain in this sham of a religion. One can only pray for a true awakening, that their God given conscience will move them to face the real truth and take their freedom by their own hands and reject those manipulative body of men.