10 Bargaining Chips for Negotiating a Direct Media Buy

Direct media buying is an excellent strategy to purchase ad impressions for your targeted audience. You have the luxury of buying impressions in bulk with the satisfaction of saving money, given that the impressions offered at a discounted rate. Surprisingly, more often than not, the listed rates are not always “discounted” per se. Ad impressions are priced at what the publisher wants for their inventory, not necessarily how much the inventory is worth to you. So, how do you get the publisher to give you exactly what you want, without letting on that you want to pay a lot less than their listed prices?

Here are 10 bargaining chips for negotiating direct media buys:

  1. State the “facts”: When reaching out to a publisher, it is likely that they will respond to you if you’re interested in offering them money for their ad inventory, but to guarantee a response, state your budget is $10,000 more than it actually is.
  2. Evaluate the metrics: What is the publisher’s CTR? How many impressions will they guarantee with a monthly rate? What is the page view ratio? These metrics should be considered before trying to negotiate a lower rate. If you notice something as a red flag in their metrics like an unusually low CTR or an extremely high amount of page views per visitor, you can use this data as when stating that the listed price is too high.
  3. Have a number in mind: Before you lay out all your concerns or start asking for discounts, have a plan of what you’re willing to pay for this ad inventory. If you’ve advertised on this site before through an ad network, you know what an ideal CPM is for you. If you haven’t, you can figure out how much you’d want to pay per acquisition based on their CTR and your conversion rate. When negotiating the price down, tell the publisher the price you’re willing to pay and why this is your target goal. Make sure to bring up the metrics you evaluated to prove your reasoning.
  4. Conduct a test: You’ll probably receive some resistance from the publisher with the above bargaining chip, so now is a good time to request a test with a small amount of remnant inventory or instead of a month commitment, just a week of impressions. A trial like this will help you better evaluate the performance of the publisher, and provide the publisher a chance to prove its value to you. Since the publisher thinks you have a huge budget, they’ll try to work with you on this.
  5. Measure the test and re-evaluate: How did the test perform for you? Are you impressed with the results? If not, move on to another publisher. However, if there was potential with the outcome, re-evaluate the amount you’re willing to pay for the impressions and see if you can get any discounts with the following strategies.
  6. Ask for a discount for a long term commitment: Many publishers have monthly rates. If you offer to commit to 3 months, 6 months or even 1 year up front, see if you can get a 5-20% discount. This helps the publisher out because they won’t have to worry about selling the inventory.
  7. Ask for a discount for paying in advance: Rather than getting invoiced monthly for your long-term commitment, see if you can get a discount for paying in advance. If you have the money now, and are seeing profitable returns from the media buy, why not save a little cash by paying for the impressions now? This helps you out, because you’ll get a bigger discount, and this helps the publisher out, because they don’t have to worry about invoicing you every month and collecting the funds. 
  8. Ask for specific ad units: Although this won’t result in monetary savings, it really does matter what ad units you’re purchasing with your media buy. Don’t you want your ad above the fold for every impression? Make sure you’re paying for only the best ad impressions available and ask for specific ad units.
  9. Get some add-ons: If you haven’t received the monetary savings you were hoping for yet, try asking for some other value. Ask if they could feature your ad in an email newsletter as a test. Be sure to let them know you’d be willing to pay for more promotions if it performs well.
  10. Measure everything and re-negotiate: After you’ve negotiated your ideal media buy, measure the performance with an ad server. You’ll want all of this data so you can use these metrics when re-negotiating your next media buy or negotiating another media buy with a similar publisher.  When negotiating, don’t give up all of your data at once. Turn your poker face on and stand strong in what you believe is fair.

This is a starter list of just some of the tactics you can use when negotiating a media buy.  Have you used any of these strategies in the past? How did they work out for you? As always, share with us in the comments section below what strategies you’ve tried when negotiating media buys.


  • Jamie Burger

    Great post! Learned a lot from this

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