Negotiating for Advertising Dollars

Advertising sales people today feel very vulnerable in negotiations. It’s a given that the advertiser has many choices, so ad-sales people often feel pressure to cave in to the demands of their prospects. They feel like they have little negotiating leverage while their prospect is more powerful.

But when you are in a genuine negotiation, where the advertiser has narrowed a range of choices to a few, including your property, ad-sales people are most likely more powerful than they think.

when you do your homework, you’ll often find you’ve “underestimated your own power, and overestimated theirs,” says Jeff Weiss, a partner at Vantage Partners, a Boston-based consultancy specializing in corporate negotiations and relationship management, and author of the forthcoming HBR Guide to Negotiating.

The buyer, being in the “power position” may not put much thought into the nuances of the negotiation. But you can. “The other side is negotiating with you for a reason,” says Margaret Neale. The Adams Distinguished Professor of Management at Stanford Graduate School of Business told Carolyn O’Hara in her Harvard Business Review blog… “Your power and influence come from the unique properties you bring to the equation.”

Overcome Negotiating Fear with Research

Ad sales executives need to keep good negotiating practices in mind when the negotiation starts.  When a client devotes time to an actual discussion of whether you can meet their price, it is a powerful signal that your property is one of a few, not one of many choices.

Frequently, the buyer just needs a small scalp to take back to their superiors to show their worth and justify picking one property over another.

In media sales negotiations, ad-sales people should be trained that the first strategy to try is to “negotiate up” by adding in value to hold the spending they had proposed.

Advertising buyers like to think media is a commodity. However, when push comes to shove there is often an alternative value the media can deliver that is not taken into account in the commodity-like comparisons. Sometimes it’s not about price, but about uniqueness. If the core value is even on a pound-for-pound basis, perhaps there is a special added value that will separate two offers without lowering a price.

A media negotiator should be well-enough prepared to understand the many ways the advertiser will benefit from the package and to offer an array of alternative concessions.


Find more advertising sales tips here.


About Daniel M. Ambrose

Ambrose, launched, corp. in 1994 to provide sophisticated strategy consulting and advertising sales training to advertising-driven media clients in the U.S. and abroad. Starting with the founding of and iVillage in 1995, has worked with hundreds of clients to help accelerate advertising revenue growth.