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Negotiating Radio Rates

Get the most for your advertising dollar.

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Q: I'm dealing with a radio salesperson who won't negotiate the price of commercials on his station. Is there any way for me to get a better deal?

A: Almost always. If you're new to advertising, the salesperson will want to train you so you won't get feisty with them until further down the road. At this stage of the game, you'll probably encounter resistance not only to your request for a more favorable rate, but also in the time slots you want.

Lower rates can usually be found in rotating schedules where your commercials are run during the "best times available" between 5 a.m. and midnight. If that time frame doesn't set well with you, tell your rep you want your commercials to start no earlier than 6 a.m. and run no later than 7 p.m., or in whatever combination of times will suit your business best. Provide them with a logical reason, such as "My business isn't open that early/late."

One caveat of lower rates is your spots are vulnerable to being "bumped" by a higher-paying client. First and third quarters are the least-common times for low-cost spots to be bumped because most radio stations--unless they carry loads of sports programming--are hurting for business.

You can lower the possibility of getting bumped by asking your radio rep every day to provide you with the time slots you've been given for the next day. If they know you'll be seeing your times in advance, they may work harder to give you good ones. If the times aren't well-distributed or you're getting bumped, postpone or cancel the schedule.

You can also take advantage of special packages offered throughout the year that come with attractive rates to bolster sagging quarters. In this deal, you purchase a specified number of commercials plus a number of promotional and sponsor ID announcements. I recently consulted with a gentleman who was offered a Christmas Music package right before the holiday season. The normal $150-per-spot rate had been reduced to $50 per spot, but the station rep said everything in the package had to run during December. The client felt January was a better time for him to advertise, so he asked if the station would run the promotional announcements tying his business to the Christmas event during December and move his 60-second commercials to January. The answer was no.

The sales rep's true reason for saying no was that the station needed to show the billings in December to make budget. I asked if they could bill the client the full amount in December for the promotional mentions and write the remainder of the contract to show the 60-second spots as "no charges" to be run in January. The answer turned to yes.

Here are more tips to help you find the best rates:

  • Let the salesperson know you're talking to other reps.
  • Gather proposals from other stations and see if the salesperson will beat the best one.
  • You're the client and it's your money. Always be willing to walk away.

Don't be intimidated by advertising reps who say no or who are resistant to negotiating prices and placement to meet your needs. They not only want and need your business, they also want to keep your dollars away from their competitors.

Kathy Kobliski is the founder and president of Silent Partner Advertising, where she oversees multimedia advertising budgets for retail and service clients. Her book, Advertising Without an Agency, was written for businesses owners who are working with small advertising budgets and can't afford professional help. You can reach Kathy via her website at

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.