There's a Russian word "джинса" (here's an article in Russian if one wonders) for articles that feel like ads (and most probably are de-facto hidden ads indeed) but not officially marked as such. My question is, apart from the term "hidden ad", is there a specific English term for this?

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    – tchrist
    May 17, 2020 at 18:09

8 Answers 8


A newspaper or magazine article, which is written in the form of an editorial article, but is actually promoting a product is often called an advertorial, but some marketing/advertising people prefer the term "Native Advertising" and attempt to create a distinction between this and advertorials, though to me the distinction is vague at best.

Often magazines will have ads that are created by third-parties which are deliberately designed to resemble the appearance of a legitimate news article, by using layout and fonts similar to the magazine's own. Often they are required to provide some sort of disclaimer that it's actually an ad, but the disclaimer is generally small and easily missed. Some magazines actually cooperate in creating such advertising, even doing the layout. Sometimes an actual article or editorial is written by a staff writer, but simply contains promotional content. This is very common with local area magazines or TV news programs.


If I read your question correctly, you are talking about print or online media that features the written word, because you've used the term "article".

I worked in advertising for more than 25 years. "Infomercial" is used for broadcast media -- audio or video.

The term most often used for media featuring the written word is "advertorial". For example, special sections in newspapers that are sponsored by corporations or regional tourism boards are advertorials.


Sponsored Content is often used for a news story partly or wholly paid for by the seller. The following promotes the use of sponsored content. https://www.activecampaign.com/blog/sponsored-content. There seems to be no single general word, only phrases.

Sponsored Content: What You Need to Know (and 9 Examples!) SEPTEMBER 30, 2019


“Paid post”

“Presented by”

“Sponsored by”

“Partnered with”


“Affiliated with”

“Powered by”

. . . These phrases are indicators of sponsored content. They mean that a brand has spent some money to get some content in front of you.

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    Those phrases are good to know in the context, but the question asked about unmarked materials and those phrases are supposed to mark the content (although potentially in a subtle way).
    – Nobody
    Apr 19, 2020 at 14:26
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    It should be noted that some of the terms listed are deliberately ambiguous between advertising masquerading as journalism (i.e. the cases in which the content is determined by the business that pays for it), and the cases in which genuine journalism is funded by some business, without the business dictating the content.
    – jsw29
    Apr 19, 2020 at 23:44

If the article is presented as being from the public or expressing a populist opinion, you might also hear the term astroturf or astroturfing applied. These terms are sometimes capitalized, as AstroTurf is a brand name of artifical grass (as a play on the term "grassroots" to mean a local or populist movement/agenda).

Wikipedia's article on astroturfing describes it as "masking the sponsors":

Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.

From Wiktionary's page on astroturf (adj):

Of a group created by a larger organisation (especially a corporation or political party), but presenting itself as a grassroots organisation.

For reference, from Wiktionary's page on grassroots (adj):

Of, or relating to people or society at the local level, particularly in politics, social movements, etc.; of the grass roots.

In this sense "astroturfing" is the generic term that can be applied to legal and illegal advertising content that is not clearly marked, where "advertorial" or "sponsored content" are labels generally applied by the publishers to disclose that sponsorship and avoid legal repercussions.


We have the term infomercial (coined as a combination of "information" and "commercial").

infomercial NOUN
North American
An advertising film which promotes a product in an informative and supposedly objective style.

  • 3
    Infomercial captures the idea that the OP has in mind, but is suitable only for the media for which commercial would otherwise be used, i.e. principally for television. As the quoted definition, somewhat quaintly, puts it, an infomercial is a 'film'. The OP, however, seems to be seeking a term for such hidden advertising in any medium, including, for example, print.
    – jsw29
    Apr 18, 2020 at 15:19

If you speak of editorial independence the expression often used to indicate both insufficient disclosure of interests or actual incentive payments is "Chequebook Journalism".


I like the term "Checkbook Journalism" or "Prostituted Journalism". Journalism should be about the truth. Most pieces are now just the opinion of whoever is paying the journalist. Pay can be in the from of advertising or a paycheck. Sad but true, unless we are independently wealthy, but we have to serve somebody. Being your own man as Kipling said is a hard business. So if you can buy a CNN or a journalist you can have your opinion presented as the "Truth". The rest of us will be limited in our own sources for the truth.

Don M


"subliminal advertising"

  • Subliminal advertising tries to influence people without them being aware of it, for example by showing messages for such a short time that people read them without realizing that they have done so. CD

subliminal - not recognized or understood by the conscious mind, but still having an influence on it. CD


  • This newspaper was full of subliminal messages about the new product
  • His speech was full of subliminal prejudice, which will surely influence some voters.

Dictionary.com defines subliminal message as a technique used in marKeting and other media to influence people without their being aware of what the messenger is doing. This may involve the use of split second flashes of text, hidden images, or subtle cues that affect the audience at a level below conscious awareness.

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    The phrase subliminal advertising, used literally, stands for the advertising that is below the threshold of perception, so that one is not conscious of it at all, as is the case with the split-second images, mentioned in the last sentence of the answer. What the OP is asking about are, however, the materials that the audience does consciously perceive; it's just the materials do not identify themselves as advertisements. Using the phrase for what the OP has in mind would be, at best, metaphorical, and possibly misleading, given that the phrase is often used in its literal sense.
    – jsw29
    Apr 18, 2020 at 15:44
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    @jsw29 You're entitled to your opinion, but I still think "subliminal advertising" fits the bill perfectly.
    – Centaurus
    Apr 18, 2020 at 15:48
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    @Centaurus That dictionary definition you included specifically states "This may involve the use of split second flashes of text, hidden images, or subtle cues that affect the audience at a level below conscious awareness." Subliminal doesn't just mean deceptive.
    – barbecue
    Apr 19, 2020 at 1:14
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    Your example of "This newspaper was full of subliminal messages about the new product" wouldn't be ads masquerading as journalism, it would be ads hidden in real journalism (or whatever other content). The masquerading as journalism case would be where the subject of the article is fairly directly the product itself, and it's just pretending to be unbiased about how great it is. Apr 20, 2020 at 8:01

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