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How to Negotiate for Ad Spots with a TV Station

When you have a TV station's advertising proposal in front of you, you may find some points that you want to negotiate. Negotiating doesn't have to be an adversarial process — and it's almost always more effective when it isn't. Here are some guidelines to follow to help you get the best deal for your business's TV ads:

  • Tell the sales rep you want to do business. Let the sales rep know right up front that you want to do business with her and her station. Being so forthright makes the deal hers to lose — which she doesn't want to do. If she knows she's close to getting your name on a contract, you can get a lot more of her effort than if she believes you're just as likely to buy an ad on another station.

  • Everything's negotiable! If you think the rate is too high, ask whether the rate is flexible. If the sales rep can’t go lower on the rate, ask whether she can add any bonus (free) commercials to the schedule.

  • Let the rep know that your advertising schedule must work. The sales rep needs to be aware that you’ll be monitoring your results closely. After all, if this ad campaign works out well, you'll be doing a lot more advertising with the station (and if it doesn’t, you won’t).

  • Consider the time of year. The busiest time for TV advertising is in the spring (leading up to summer) and fall (leading up to the winter holidays). Stations have considerably less demand for TV ads in the first quarter (January–March) and third quarter (July–September) than the rest of the year. You can push a bit further for a better deal during these times because the sales rep has more flexibility.

  • Ask for promotions and other deals. TV stations have a variety of promotions going on all the time. As you negotiate the advertising schedule, be sure to ask what else the station may be able to do for you, in addition to the advertising schedule, to help you achieve your objective.

  • Get better rates with annual or long-term contracts. Often, stations can offer you better rates, or other incentives, for making long-term commitments.

    Stations may put your commercials into a bonus pool if you sign a long-term contract. The bonus pool consists of unsold commercial air time — a "pool" of time into which certain station clients will, as their commercials reach the front of the queue, enjoy free spots.

  • Stay within your budget. One of the biggest mistakes new advertisers make is trying to buy too much. Instead of trying to stretch your budget to cover as many options as possible, you’re better off doing the opposite. Choose one to three options and buy those programs as heavily as you can. Reaching some potential customers effectively is better than reaching a whole bunch of viewers ineffectively.

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