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Should I fall for last minute offers from Ad Sales Reps?

Written by Vega Sims on Friday, 05 August 2011. Posted in Marketing and Communication

For many smaller businesses, making decisions about advertising can be difficult, especially if you have a persistent advertising sales rep on the telephone trying to flog you, what may seem to be, a bargain / deal not to be missed.  Before you fall for the crafty salesperson’s charm, there are a few things you should always consider first. So take a breath, ask them to send you information via email, and politely put down the phone so that you can assess the opportunity objectively.

Advertising is a long term investment and should usually not be done on an ad hoc basis, so on most occasions your answer to the salesperson’s offer should be, no thank you. In my experience, the best way to place effective adverts is to plan ahead and book several placements at a time – which should entitle you to a sizable quantity discount anyway. Most large organisations buy media placements as part of their marketing strategy in this way. Your order will be much smaller, but learn from the big players; they have been doing this for a while.

If the last minute deal is from a trusted publication that you advertise with regularly then it’s definitely worth considering. In this article I’ll focus on publications that you have not recently (or never) used.

Some of the things that I will look at before making a decision include:

  • Response rates of adverts that I have placed with the publication previously, if applicable
  • Reputation of the publication
  • Target audience – does it align with my specific campaign’s audience
  • Circulation figures; I’d give preference to publications with audited figures. Some well known niche or industry specific publications won’t have audited figures and should still be considered if they have an established reputation. Using this metrics helps to determine if it is a fly-by-night publication or not. Be careful, publications can inflate their figures if they are unaudited
  • Geographical area that the publication covers; if the coverage is national and your organisation can only serve regions, there should be substantial evidence that you would still receive a positive return by placing an advert, if not don’t buy the ad space
  • Cost per impression/viewer/listener (circulation figure divided by the price of the advert). This will make it easier to compare the placement prices of publications
  • Possible return on investment (ROI) and break even. Calculate how many sales you will have to generate in order to cover the cost, and then make an expected ROI judgement based on response rates of campaigns you’ve run previously
  • Value for money. I’d assess whether I’d classify the deal as value for money, by combining my findings to the above mentioned points
  • My marketing budget. Do I have money available in my budget? If not, can I justify requesting additional funds.

Advertising must form part of a long term marketing strategy simply because you have to build a relationship of trust between your prospects and your business, especially if you’re a new unknown organisation. The time it takes for this relationship to form will depend on various things such as your offering, your industry, price, reputation etc. If you don’t get a response for the first few placements don’t panic, if you’re a brand new business it may take a few placements. Make sure that you evaluate and adjust (if needed) your advert and offer regularly.

Your advert design and your offer are of extreme importance. The design should be done by a skilled professional with experience in copy writing and design for the specific medium you will place your advert in. Also make sure your design is in line with your brand identity as this will enhance your overall brand recognition. You may, at this point, not be able to afford the services of a marketing agency, but get the best advert designed that you can afford as it can influence your response rate significantly.

To monitor responses include a unique contact number or webpage etc dedicated to your campaign as this will help you determine the ROI.


During my career I have unfortunately seen many senior managers waste thousands of pounds on advertising by falling for a slick sales pitch. Also be very careful not to spend money with fly-by-night operators. It may sound quite obvious, but I’ve seen competent (non-marketing) senior directors fall into that trap before.

If done correctly, advertising can be a wonderful way to grow your brand reputation and customer base, so don’t be afraid to use it, just be aware of the pitfalls, be sure that advertising fits into your long term strategic marketing plan, evaluate and adjust. Advertising should form part of your overall marketing communications mix, it should not be done in isolation.

In closing remember as with any investment, an investment in marketing should always provide a return in the long term.

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