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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.

Over 90% of 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.  And can be as high as 93% off traditional media placement costs.

Even if you create your own ad in-house, this “agency” discount is traditionally available to you. It’s one of the easiest to receive discounts on media placements!

If you know how to negotiate for your media buy, buying ad space at steeper discounts increases rapidly from there.  This article offers a good overview on remnant space, then offers links on the technical side of creating your ad for both traditional ads and remnant space.  Then the article offers other techniques to buy media using different strategies to receive advertising price discounts.

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

Both newspaper advertising rate costs and magazine advertising rates can be discounted substantially if you ask for stand-by or remnant advertising space.  Ad placement cost discounts can be substantial.

Knowing how to purchase remnant space television time inventory is also a huge part of buying TV advertising at a significant discount.  Remnant radio time is also often heavily discounted as well.  These discounts are discussed in other articles on this site and in my marketing books.

Remnant ad space discounts in newspapers and magazines are commonly as high as 70%, 80% and 90% off the rate card.  Sometimes higher.

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 ad 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, for any month – at any time of year.  It’s an underground way to market ad space at a lower price to those advertisers who want consistent advertising visibility in their media campaigns.

Remnant space in magazines 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 ad being cancelled at the very last second by the the publisher (can you say “failure to pay a past bill.)  In either case the pulled ad would leave a page blank as the publication goes to press.

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

It would look pretty awkward to see a white page in a magazine or newspaper.  As the issue closes the publisher fills the blank page – usually a full page, half-page or 1/3 page – at the last moment with a house ad for their publication.  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…

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, those who are willing to pay for an ad if they can get it at a discount, or 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 sell their ad space at discount.  Highly discount ad space.

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

Tell them you have a full page ad (half-page ad, third-page ad) on-hand, already created art 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 completely 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.’  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

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 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 get run.  If it does run, you received placement at a tremendously discounted advertising space rate.  Yahoo…

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

Intelligent Testing Photo

Dobkin wrote this full course on testing media.

Most newspapers who accepted a remnant space campaign would give us a 2 or 3 week window in which they would place our ad.  If it didn’t run in that time frame, they would cancel the insertion order.  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.

When buying remnant space in newsprint, be prepared: most papers want a three week window to run your ad.  Although your ad might run right away, publishers often 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 becomes 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.  And in truth, some magazine publishers just won’t deal off their rate card at all.

Yet other publishers discount 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.  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 newspaper costs, they can be considerable cost reductions.

More common discounts available on ad placement costs

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 negotiates for a better a advertising rate for your one-time advertisement insertion order, start out by asking the publisher for the 12 x rate when you’re placing your ad.

Yes, you heard that right.

 “We’d like to test your publication for our mail order products, do you think we can get the 12 time rate just 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 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?”

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 your 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 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, 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 cost discount:

“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.


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 money.  I still get the latest specifics on where the best rates are available.  I also have a long history of effective marketing:  how to figure out which magazines and newspapers to place ads in.  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 ad position in the magazine or newspaper.

Where your ad appears in the magazine or newspaper absolutely does make a 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 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.

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.

Some publications won’t exactly say where your ad will run, and some may actually not know where your ad will be placed at the time you are placing is as the publication hasn’t been laid out yet. But if pressed most will come up with a solution.

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 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!

by Jeffrey Dobkin

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. 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, $375. Ugh. Are we having fun yet?

Sure, repeated exposure may get you more sales, but if your ad isn’t working enough to draw ants at a picnic, face it: it’s tanking and probably won’t be enough to cover the ad placement costs.  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 cost you three times as much as the first.  Even if your revenues go up, it will probably only be by a fraction of what you need to cover cost of the ad placement. 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 at a discount

So, you’re sure your untested and 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.  If your ad doesn’t work in your strongest sales month, sure ain’t gonna work in the weakest placement month, is it?

Here’s the kicker: 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 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.

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 6 months – as in our example, use the June and September issues. Keep in mind YOU HAVE A YEAR TO FULFILL THE 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. 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 – you’re one of the few.  Now 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 and focus to get your ad included in the earliest issue possible.

With this little scheduling trick, for every 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. No dice? Heck, 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.  And 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.

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 request.  Lots more publishers will yield to your “very serious request” when you tell them you’d like to place your ad in their magazine but their rate is just too high – and 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 now it’s just the question of what can I do for you?  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 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.