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How To Negotiate a Discount for Ad Space

Remnant Space: Get Maximum Discounts Buying Advertising Media Space

By Jeffrey Dobkin

Article summary:
How To Buy Ad Space at Discount!  Here’s an overview on how to get huge discounts when placing ads – sometimes as much as 70%, 80% even 90% off of your advertising rates when placing advertisements in magazines and newspapers.  This is one of two explicit articles that show you exactly how to buy ad space at a discount.

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

Anyone can pay list price for an ad.

Most publishers will discount newspaper and magazine advertising costs from their published media rate sheet if you approach them correctly.

Traditional discounts in print ad placement costs start at 15% for submitting camera-ready ad from your ad agency.  Additional discounts can be as high as 93% off traditional media placement costs.

Even if you create your own ad in-house, the traditional “agency” discount is available to you. It’s one of the easiest discounts to receive on media space placements!  It’s also just for starters.  This entire article is about getting better rates from publishers of magazines and newspapers.

If you know how to negotiate for your media buy, you can enjoy buying ad space at steeper discounts.

This article offers a good overview on remnant space, then offers links to additional reading on the technical side of creating your ad for both traditional ads and remnant space.  Then our marketing articles offer little known techniques to buy media using different strategies to receive advertising price discounts.  Thanks for reading – we hope this information is of great value.

Buying “remnant advertising space” offers the ultimate highly discounted media placement costs.  Discounts can run as high as 93%!

Before placing any ad in any magazine or newspaper ask the publisher or sales rep if they offer “stand-by” or “remnant” advertising space.  Ad placement cost discounts are substantial.  Even some of the largest magazines offer deals.

Getting the best advertising rate through remnant space.

Remnant space, also know as “Stand-by” space, is the little secret publishers don’t like to talk about.

Remnant ad space placement cost is highly discounted off the advertising rate card.  In magazines it’s made available late in the publishing cycle – the last few days – when a publisher has unsold advertising space and the issue is shortly going to press.

Some newspapers and magazines traditionally offer remnant space for all their publications at any time.  It’s an underground way to market ad space at a lower price to those advertisers that don’t have a big budget but who still want consistent advertising visibility in their media campaigns.

Remnant space can result from a regular advertiser pulling an ad out of the newspaper or magazine at the last minute as the publication nears its closing layout deadline.  It can also result from an editorial piece not running, or an ad being cancelled at the very last second by the the publisher (can you say “failure to pay a past bill.)  In any case the page would be blank as the publication goes to press.

Yet you never see a blank page in a newspaper or magazine.

In fact it would look pretty awkward to see a blank white page in a magazine or newspaper.  So……

As the issue gets closer to going on-press, the publisher fills the blank page – usually a full page, half-page or 1/3 page – at the last moment with a house ad.  This can be an ad for the publication itself, or for a non-profit like the Heart Association, Diabetes Foundation, Brain Injury Foundation or other non-profit.  This ad – a space filler – is run for free.


Or… the publisher can sell the ad space at discount and take what he (or she) can get.

For the publisher it’s a lot better to bring in some revenue – any revenue – for this space.

Enter “stand-by” space.  The revenue comes from potential advertisers who want to test the publication; from those who are willing to place an ad if they can get it at a discount, or direct-selling advertisers that can only make the ad profitable by buying the media at a substantially discounted rate.   Thus remnant space advertising was born into what is now a huge industry.

How to make Remnant Newspaper Space happen for you:

Ask any publisher about remnant space in their magazine or newspaper. They’ll tell you they never sell advertising space at a discounted rate.

That’s all well and good, and a standard response in the print media industry.  Why should they tell you up front they’ll take less than list price for ad space? No percentage in that.

Yet a lot of publishers will cut backroom deals.

Obviously, a few won’t – like PC magazine who sells out each issue. They don’t need the money.

But a surprising number of even well-known magazines will sell their ad space at discount costs.  Highly discounted ad space costs.  If you ask correctly.

If you ask for stand-by or remnant space ad rate, frame your question like this:  

Tell the publisher you have a full page ad on-hand, an already created art mechanical – and it is ready for immediate placement if they ever find a page opens up at the last minute.  And you also have a half page ad and a third page ad as well – completely composed and ready for placement.

Mention that you could send the advertising art to them instantly, electronically.  You could also send your advertisement to them in a hard copy so they have it on hand, ‘just in case.’  If they have your mechanical or PDF ad on hand it will be mighty tempting to the publisher to run your ad the next time a full page advertiser cancels an ad at the last minute.

The Risk of Placing Remnant Space Ads: It might not run.

Unlike a traditionally placed ad placed under contract 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.

It could get bumped by editorial, or if the publisher receives a better offer or a list price ad from another advertiser.

That’s the trade off: your remnant space ad may not run.  Or not run in the issue you select.  You are accepting the risk your ad won’t run.

With the remnant space newspaper campaigns I’ve overseen over the years, I found there was always discounted cost newspaper space available somewhere.

Intelligent Testing Photo

Dobkin wrote this full course on testing media.

Most newspapers who regularly accepted a remnant space campaigns would give us a 2 or 3 week window in which they would place our ad if space became available.  If it didn’t run in that time frame, they would cancel the insertion order, and we wouldn’t be charged.  If that happened – which did NOT happen frequently  – we placed an additional insertion order for future placement.  Both the publisher and my clients wanted the ads to run.  No one made money if the ads didn’t run.

When buying remnant space in newsprint be prepared: most papers want this three week window to run your ad.  Although your ad might run right away, publishers who often deal with remnant space all the time like a window of several issues to place it.

The reward of Placing Remnant Space Ads –
You save substantial costs by purchasing Highly Discounted Newspaper Advertising cheaply!

Last minute remnant space deals become available only as the magazine or newspaper gets close to going on press.

Ad rates can be discounted as high as 95% off the list price shown on their rate card.  Yes, remnant space can be that highly discounted.

A remnant space ad campaign can consistently drive your media acquisition costs
down by 80% to 90%.  Sometimes more.

Standby space isn’t always available, some months and holiday issues are consistently booked with ads the publisher sells at list price.

Other publishers offer discounted ads all the time – it’s just the reality of the publishing business: constantly juggling price, cost and space inventory.

Some publishers will only deal with ad brokers that specialize in offering discounted ads.  It’s a slippery slope here – this industry can be like the wild west.  It’s a little scary dealing with some of the firms.  After 12 years in the field, I may be able to help or at least point you in the right direction, just ask.

Handy Links for Placing Remnant Space and Stand-by Ads

Learn the technical side of designing and buying remnant space ads from other articles on Remnant Advertising Space on this website.

Remnant Space Specs.  •  Remnant Space Placement   •   Remnant Space – Negotiating Rates.

Other Advertising Rate Discounts Available

If you really want your ad to be published in a certain publication on a certain date, all is not lost.  Here are a few other ways to request ad space be placed at a notable discount.  While these discounts are seldom as great as remnant costs, they can be considerable cost reductions.

Common discounts available on ad placement costs, and the specifics of how to negotiate!

Probably the most common way to get a discount on the cost of an ad insertion is to get a “multiple-insertion” discount.

Printed right on their rate card, most magazine publishers offer insertion-order discounts for a three-time insertion contract, a six-time insertion rate, and a twelve-time insertion ad contract.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a publisher’s rate card without discounts for running an ad more than once.

The 3 time rate discount is the most common — especially to test the effectiveness of a new magazine or campaign.

To open negotiations for a better a advertising rate for a one-time advertisement insertion order, I usually start out by asking the publisher for the 12 x rate, even when I’m placing one ad.  I phrase it this way:

 “We’d like to test your publication for our mail order products, do you think we can get the 12-time rate to test the effectiveness of your magazine’s draw?”

Yes, even if you are just placing one ad.  It can’t hurt to ask, and it’s a great opening bid.

If the advertising sales rep or publisher says no, pause uncomfortably.

Wait a few seconds.  Then drop reluctantly down to the 6 x insertion rate, and ask for that.

“I understand you don’t want to place this ad at the twelve times rate, but we’d really like to test your magazine — do you think we can get the six times rate for this ad?”

Sigh…  This may still be not be available but it sets up the publisher for the final discount request from their rate sheet: ask for the 3 x rate.

If you started out requesting the 3-times discount, you’d have given away a lot of your negotiation power.

Yes, even if you are just placing one ad.  By all means ask for the three-times discount!  Some publishers will deal and others will be thrilled to place your ad and have the revenue even though it’s at a discounted ad space rate.  It’s still money and revenue for them!

Further Negotiating Advertising Placement Rates

Some publishers can be tough on discounts.

Still no deal?  Here’s a fallback position: Ask for the “Mail Order” rate, or the “Test Ad” rate.

Hey, these trade discounts are still available at some publications, but only to those who ask.

Still no discount?  Yea, some publishers are really tough.  Some just won’t deal.  Face it, if your magazine is selling advertising space for $40k a page, and some guy calls on the phone asking for a 12x rate on his first insertion on a third of a page, you probably couldn’t care less.  You’re more concerned the restaurant you’re going to for lunch doesn’t run out of Dom Perignon champaign.

Meanwhile, back in reality, where I think we virtually are, if all other newspaper and magazine advertising cost negotiations go south, plea for an upgrade in ad size!

Here’s exactly how to express yourself for a newspaper or magazine ad ad upgrade in size:

“We have a 1/3rd page ad already made up, but my client now says he only has a budget for a 1/4 page advertisement – do you think you could upgrade our ad size?”

This is a great way to get a discount on your ad: 1/3 page for a 1/4 page rate – the publisher still gets your advertising and most of the revenue is still there.  It’s attractive.

If all these asks don’t work in negotiating your ad costs… Last and least – simply ask for a free second color: “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 or a photo, so there’s a good chance they’ll give this to you for free.

Please call me:  I’m still pretty heavily involved in the publishing community.  If you’re running a serious ad campaign, I may be able to save you time and money.  I still get the latest specifics on where the best rates are available, and a few industry tricks for getting discounts.

I also have a long history of effective marketing:  how to figure out which magazines and newspapers to place ads in, and back end analysis of how to manage your campaigns to be the most effective they can be.  610-642-1000 rings on my desk, and I always enjoy speaking with readers and fellow marketers, geeky guy that I am.  I have a 30 year depth of knowledge in media and have helped a lot of people save money.  No cost, certainly no obligation.  Call anytime.  Leave a message if I’m out.  Or email me… jeff @ dobkin dot com.

Getting better ad position:

Besides negotiating advertising costs, there are other advertising strategies you should definitely employ…  like negotiating good position and page for your ad in the magazine or newspaper.

Where your ad appears in the magazine or newspaper absolutely does make a huge difference in the response you’ll receive.  

Don’t believe the sales rep if he says “Yes, people read the magazine from cover to cover!”  They don’t.  And next month, another magazine comes along.  So if your ad is on page 64, and the reader was stopped on page 62 right when next month’s magazine came in…

Readership falloff can be severe towards the back of the publication.

In newspapers – some pages are never read by most people.  Like the stock pages.  If investors want current stock prices, they go on the internet or TV, where prices are up the the second.  To be way in the back of the stock section can kill off the response of almost any ad. Even a great advertisement or incredible offer will die a quiet and expensive death of no-response.

Here’s the way I express how I want good position for a client’s ad (yes, even a remnant space ad):

“If I buy this ad space contract will you give me good position – first 10 pages?” Or in newspapers, upfront in with “Main News.”

In fact, whenever I place an ad for a client, I always insist on page location confirmation before I say yes to the advertising space buy.  Once you say yes to the buy, you lose all your negotiating bargaining power.  All.

Always, Always Negotiate Ad Position.

Nothing good happens if your ad is buried in the back of the magazine or newspaper… and no one sees it.
Actually, nothing happens at all…  You get no response.  Your ad fails.  You lose money.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Some publications won’t exactly say where your ad will run, and some may actually not know where your ad will be placed as the publication hasn’t been laid out yet. But if pressed most will come up with a solution.  And that’s a good time to make sure your ad gets printed toward the front!

Negotiating good position in the magazine or newspaper is especially, especially true for standby ads.

Without negotiating, remnant space ads are always placed in the back of the publication.

The magazine publisher will move a regular advertiser to an up-front space if it becomes available and place the standby advertiser in the back.  I don’t blame them.

But… I don’t want my client’s ad in the back, either.  So we talk about it.  Up front.  Before I say yes and commit to the space.  In a newspaper, we talk about the section: I always want my clients ads in the main news section.  Never ever in the sports section.  Or never in the stock pages.  Most of the markets are missed.  While there are die-hard sports fans, most of the population only reads the main news.

Don’t settle:

Don’t settle for, “Oh we’ll give you good position!”  The newspaper or magazine sales reps idea of good advertisement placement position may be the first half of the publication.  My idea of good ad position is the 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 147.

The 3-Ad Myth – What NEVER TO DO when buying an ad at discount!

When asked for a discount on a single ad insertion (publishers get this all the time), most magazine sales personnel reply, “You know, your ad has to be seen three times before you get the best response. Why don’t you place your ad three times and get the three-time rate?”  And there lies the three-ad myth.

What usually happens? The advertiser says OK, buys three consecutive months of ads – say January, February, and March – and holds his breath.

Suppose ads cost $850 each (or $8,500 each… it doesn’t matter.) January comes and goes, and so does the advertiser’s money. Total sales income: $220. Now the myth kicks in. Yes, the next ad does better:  February comes. Total sales income: $350. Better? Yes. Good enough to cover the cost of the ads? Not nearly, not even close. If the advertiser is lucky, a few additional orders straggle in from January’s ad: + $60, which still sucks. March’s ad breaks, more dim sales, $475. Ugh. Are we having fun yet?

Sure, repeated exposure may get you more sales, but if your ad isn’t working hard enough to get close to breaking even: it probably won’t be enough to cover the ad placement costs in further insertions.

The ONLY place the three consecutive month ads placement MAY work is if your ad revenue is very very close to breaking even with your first ad, then the second two ads MAY be profitable. But over the past 25 years or so that I’ve been involved in advertising, I have never, ever seen a first ad draw poorly – like in the above first example – and then BOOM: make money in the second ad, then become really profitable for the advertiser the third ad. Never.

It’s a little thing the magazine publishers never tell you:

If your first ad doesn’t work, your next ad will double your loss in advertising expense.

Yes, the two ads combined will now lose more money for you. Then your third ad will still cost you – even if your revenues go up, it will probably only be by a fraction of what you need to cover cost of the ad placements.

OK, I’ll throw in the benefit of the doubt – suppose your revenues go up a full 20%.  Grrreeeat!  You still lost money with that ad placement strategy. Would you like to bet against my 25 years of practical experience with your 3-ad insert, knowing those odds?Advertising and Marketing Services

Advertising: Ad Negotiation — How to really buy 3 ads to get the discount, and not lose money

So, you’re sure your untested ad – and that untested magazine – will work for you…  OK. Go ahead, buy three ads and claim your 3-ad discount.  Schedule the first ad placement at your discretion, and I’d go with the strongest month for possible sales, which is usually January or February.  If your ad doesn’t work in your strongest sales month, sure ain’t gonna work in the weakest months like July or August, is it?

Here’s the kicker: How to not lose your shirt:  Specify in your insertion order for the second of your three ads to run at least four months after the first one appears in the magazine. Reason: if the first ad is a flop, you’ll have TIME TO CANCEL the second and third ads before it’s too late to cancel them.

Most larger publishers compose their magazines, layout and send the galleys to their printer two or three months before they are ready to be printed and mailed. This long lead time makes it virtually impossible to place an ad in an issue just coming out, but more importantly, it makes it impossible to cancel an ad during this three-month period (or at least that’s the story you get when you ask a publisher to cancel next month’s ad.)

So if your first ad appears in January, by the time this issue hits the streets, February and March issues are most likely in final design stages, at the printer’s, or maybe even printed. It may be too late to cancel your ad and you probably won’t have much help from the publisher, he would face leaving a large white space where your ad was going to run on page 147 of his next magazine. So no one at the publishing office will be in a hurry to help you.

Here’s what to do: contract with the publisher to run the first ad in January (or any month you think it will draw the best response). To get the three-time rate, schedule the second and third ads in  4 to 6 months.  For example, make your insertion order for the second and third ads in the June and September issues. Keep in mind YOU HAVE A YEAR TO FULFILL THE 3-X CONTRACT with the insertion of the other two ads.

Sure, the continuity will be broken, but if your ad fails, your lesson will only cost you 1/3 as much. Because now you’ll have time to cancel the next two ads. Yes, you’ll have to pay the difference between the one-time placement charge and the three-time placement charge, but hellllllooooo…  it’s a lot cheaper than paying for two more ads that don’t work. A LOT cheaper.

As you can see, I don’t care for the publisher’s miss-statement: “You need to run an ad three or more times for credibility.” While there is a certain truth to building trust and credibility with multiple exposures, an ad that falls flat on its face the first time it appears in a newspaper or magazine is still going to lose money the second time the ad appears, and the third time the ad is inserted. Period. And I’ll guaran-damn-tee that.

What if the first ad works?
Wow – suppose you’re actually one of the few.

Ask the publisher how soon you can place another ad.

Since this is the revenue stream for every publishing company, you’ll have the publisher, every space salesperson, the graphic designer, the layout artist and the printer at the magazine all pushing as hard as humanly possible to get your ad in the next issue.  It’s money to them.  Rest assured, the whole publication staff will now work as hard as possible to get your ad included in the earliest issue possible.

I hope you liked this little scheduling trick.  For any ad test that fails you’ll be able to cancel your second and third ads in time. You’ll save 2/3 of your money. Now, send me 1/3, and this lesson still saved you 1/3 of your payout. No dice? OK, just send me a nice bottle of Champagne.

For hundreds of other insider’s tricks at least buy a few of my books, How To Market a Product for Under $500! or Uncommon Marketing Techniques. Thanks.

There are lots of ways to negotiate for lower costs on advertising space.  

Frankly, in their own self interest most every publisher would like you to have a successful ad campaign. You know, an ad campaign that runs ads every issue… for years.  To this end, lots of magazine reps and sales personnel will deal – offering you some kinds of ad space costs at discount.  

Remnant space, the ultimate granddaddy of advertising space discounts, may be yours for simply asking… in the right way.

Keep in mind some publishers won’t offer remnant space ad discounts up front, but will discount your ad space in some fashion on request.  Many publishers will offer discounts on the second more serious request.

Lots more publishers will yield to your “very serious request” when you tell them you have an ad finished and ready to be printed – and you’d like to place your ad in their magazine but their rate is just too high! You’ll be happy to reconsider it if they can just work with you a little more closely in cost.  And oh, yes, you’ll need a good forward position in their magazine.

If the magazine or newspaper publisher thinks their readers will be a good market for your product or services (which most reps will tell you a little more leniently 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 strong discount on advertising placement costs.  The discounts are there if you know how to ask, and ask.

Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeffrey Dobkin Bio:  Thanks for reading down to here.  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 gimme a call and I’ll be glad to help?  If you have questions, I’m generally friendly except really early in the mornings before coffee.  Just call: 610-642-1000.  This phone number rings directly on my desk.  Go on, gimme a call at lunchtime, see if my mouth is full.  Thank you.  Or email: jeff @ dobkin . com.

Here’s a link to a very graphic description of how to buy  Remnant Space Advertising in Newspapers.  If you click around this website, there are several more articles on Remnant Space.  And here’s my phone number if you get stuck: 610-642-1000.


Remnant space isn’t just for newspaper and magazine advertising.
Remnant space is also available for television time inventory.  Remnant is a huge part of buying TV advertising at a significant discount.  Remnant radio time is also often heavily discounted as well.  Please call me personally for information about remnant radio and TV advertising.  Thanks.