Taking Advantage of Discounted Online Ad Rates During an Economic Downturn

The great irony of an economic downturn such as the one that we are now experiencing, is that while they provide the greatest opportunity for businesses to invest in future growth, most companies feel that they are in no position to capitalize on that opportunity. Considering that the current slump has produced reduced pricing on many items, including advertising, and interest rates have fallen to extraordinarily low levels, making capital more readily available, the question becomes can your business afford not to take advantage of the situation? The temptation to keep the purse strings pulled tight in the face of uncertainty may be the only obstacle between your business and future success.

The economic contraction has been particularly merciless to the advertising industry, especially the interactive segment. With overall advertising budgets shrinking for traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses and the demise of the dot-com companies that provided the lion’s share of online ad spending during the Internet boom of the late 1990’s, the rates have never been lower, and online media outlets have never been more anxious to bend to meet your needs than now.

The value of the Internet as a marketing media cannot be underestimated. The failure of an online campaign to achieve a superior ROI can almost always be traced back to a lack of research, poor creative, and/or spreading of the budget too thin. Dollar-for-dollar, Internet advertising cannot be beaten if it is skillfully planned and executed. Many traditional large corporations, sensing the vacuum created by the end of the dot-com boom, have chosen to budget a greater share of their advertising dollars to the Internet, with overall spending remaining flat but online spending on the rise.

Understanding the benefits of increasing your online marketing program during this recession is one thing, but how can you ensure that you are squeezing out the absolute greatest return on your investment? First, make sure that an appropriate amount of research has gone into your interactive media plan. Every aspect should be scrutinized – each property should be examined on its own merit, on its ability to mesh with the other properties being explored, and its fit into a cohesive overall plan. One weak link can drastically reduce the overall performance of your entire campaign. With all of the properties out there clamoring for business, why settle for a second rate property? Next you must ensure that the creative is eye catching enough to garner an initial view, engaging enough to maintain the user’s interest, and clear enough that the user understands the message and call to action so that the desired effect is achieved.

The final key to maximizing your ROI is to skillfully negotiate with the online property. Most properties have a rate card, which is either published on their site or available upon request. The first thing that the account executive is going to do say when you contact them is that they can do better than the published rate, and ask you how much you have budgeted. They will then use this figure to give you a quote that they feel will pleasantly surprise you. Don’t let them fool you – this is a game of limbo and it is all about how low you can go.

There is a range of tactics that you can use to hammer the price down to rock bottom:

  • Allude to the fact that if you are happy with the initial results, there may be much more coming in a later round. This is an excellent ploy for a first time buy. Retaining advertisers is of utmost importance to these properties as they attempt to stabilize their cash flow. If they believe that your organization has potential as a valuable long-term advertiser, they will drastically reduce your rate to ensure your future business.
  • If a property is a proven component of your plan, arrange a longer-term deal. The more you commit to spend, and the longer you agree to advertise on their property, the better the rate they will offer.
  • Play one comparable property against another. If you really want a specific property as part of your plan, but another similar (yet less desirable) property offers a better rate, tell the first property what their competitor is offering on the same deal and see if they will match it – which they most likely will.
  • Hire an interactive firm that has an established relationship with most of the properties in your campaign mix. A firm that brings multiple clients to the table can usually obtain vastly discounted rates and receive first dibs on the best inventory.

Remember, it is a buyer’s market right now, and you have the upper hand. If you act now, you can establish relationships with major Internet properties that will give you leverage in the future when those properties are no longer scrambling for ad dollars and the prices begin to rise. By acting now, you will see immediate savings and achieve long-term discounts that will outlive the current downturn.