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How To Negotiate a Discount for Ad Space

By Jeffrey Dobkin

One of the easy mistakes to make in advertising is to pay list price for an ad.

Over 90% of publishers will discount from their rate sheet if you approach them correctly. Discounts start at 15% for submitting your camera-ready ad from your own in-house ad “agency,” (I call this the tourist rate discount!) – if you know how to negotiate the ad space discounts increase rapidly from there.

Getting the best rate

The greatest discount in advertising is placing a remnant space ad. Remnant space is a little secret magazine publishers don’t like to talk about.  This heavily discounted ad space is offered when a regular advertiser pulls out as the magazine is nearing its closing layout deadline, or an ad is cancelled at the very last second – which can leave a page blank as the magazine is going to press.  The publisher, now in panic mode, fills the space – usually a page, half-page or 1/3 page – at the last moment with an ad from someone who asked for “Remnant” or “Stand-by” space.  Unlike a traditionally placed contract ad which definitely runs, with a remnant space insertion order there’s a chance your ad won’t run at all, or won’t run in a particular issue.  But if the publisher is willing to take less than list price, you may find it can get placed in the magazine at discount and you may be able to negotiate a great rate.  Remnant ads inserted at the last minute can drive ad placement costs down 50%, 70% or even 90% off list – and sometimes more.

Standby space isn’t always available, and some magazine publishers won’t deal at all.  Here are a few other ways to get ad space at a discount.

What to say to get a discount

Probably the most common way to get a discount on the cost of an ad is to get a multiple-insertion discount. Most magazine publishers offer insertion order discounts for a three-time insertion, a six-time rate, and a twelve-time rate, the 3 time rate being the most common — especially to test the effectiveness of a new magazine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a publisher’s rate card without discounts for running your ad more than once. So first, ask the publisher for the 12 x rate.  Yes, even if you are just placing one ad.  It can’t hurt to ask, and it’s a great opening bid.

If no deal, drop reluctantly down to the 6 x insertion rate.  Sigh…  This may still be not available but it sets up the publisher for the final newspaper discount rate ask: ask for the 3 x rate.  Yes, even if you are just placing one ad.  By all means ask for the three-times discount, some publishers will deal!  But some publishers are tough. So here’s your fallback position:

Still no deal?  Wow – some publishers are tough.  Ask for the “Mail Order” rate, or the “Test Ad” rate.  Hey, these discounts are still available at some publications.  Still no dice?  Finally, plea for an upgrade in ad size!  This newspaper or magazine discount request is expressed “We have a 1/3rd ad already made up, but my client now says he only has a budget for a 1/4 page – do you think you could upgrade us?”  And last and least – “do you think you can lay on a second color on the ad at no charge?”  This is incredibly cheap for the magazine to do if the second color is already being printed on the page in a different ad, so there’s a good chance they’ll give this to you for free.

Additional Newspaper and Magazine Negotiations: Position
Nothing good happens if your ad is buried in the back of the magazine and no one sees it.  Readership falloff can be severe. Here’s the tactic I use: “If I buy a 3x contract will you give me good position – first 10 pages?”  In fact, whenever I place an ad for my client, I always insist on page location confirmation before I say yes to the buy. This is especially, especially true for standby ads as the magazine publisher will move a regular advertiser to an up-front space if it opens up and place the standby advertiser in the back. Don’t settle for, “Oh we’ll give you good position!”  Their idea of good position may be first half of the publication.  My idea of good position is first 10 to 20 pages. You’ll need something firm here so you don’t get screwed — when the publication comes out it will be too late to do anything about your ad on page 348.

Once the negotiated position of your where your ad will appear in the magazine or newspaper has been settled to your satisfaction, tell the publisher you’ll accept the 3x rate and book three ads. That’s right, go ahead – book three ads to get the three-ad discount.  But wait…

Learn how to do this correctly! 
Learn how to buy this advertising space with the discount, and also how to buy three ads in a way you won’t get stuck with a failing ad campaign including how and when to cancel the rest of the ad insertion order.  Read the next article in the series and learn the Jeffrey Dobkin ‘I-found-out-the-hard-way-so-you-don’t-have-to’ twist on a 3-ad insertion schedule from his 25 years of experience buying ads for his clients in the advertising and marketing fields
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Please click here to continue reading:  The Three Ad Myth

 Summary:  There are lots of ways to negotiate for lower prices on ad space.  Most all publishers would like you to have a successful ad campaign: you know, one that runs every issue for years.  And lots of magazine reps and sales personnel will deal with offering you some kinds of ad space at discount.  Some on the first request, many on the second request, and lots more publishers will yield to your serious request when you tell them you’d like to place your ad in their magazine – in a good forward position in their magazine – but their rate is just too high.  You’ll be happy to reconsider it if they can just work with you more closely in cost.  If the magazine or newspaper publisher thinks their readers will be a good market for you (which most reps tell you when they are trying to sell you ad space)  let them share in just a small part of the financial ownership of their belief, by giving you a discount on placement costs.

Jeffrey Dobkin Bio:  Hell, I’ve written a bio on so many other pages, just find one and read it there.  Thanks.  If you’ve read all the other pages, you already kinda know what I do, so what can I do for you?  If you have questions, just call: 610-642-1000 rings on my desk.  Thank you.