Advertising Rates – The Tijuana Method

Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Business Writing, Kel's Corner | 0 comments

Advertising Rates – The Tijuana Method

When I was a sophomore in college, I spent spring break with my then boyfriend and his family at a beach house in San Diego. One morning we awoke and decided to drive to Tijuana since none of us had ever been to Mexico before. I had no idea what to expect. After crossing the border and parking, my mind was assaulted by the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. It was street after street of painted donkeys, car horns, tourists sporting awful Hawaiian shirts, large signs reading TEQUILA HERE, the smell of authentic Mexican food, and people of every age, shape, and size yelling about their product or trinket or marketplace. I was overwhelmed.

“Mamacita! You would look so pretty in this scarf!”

“Hey honeymooners! My tequila has the best worms in all of Mexico at the bottom of the bottle!”

“Real Sterling Silver! No junk!”

And on…and on. I definitely wanted to buy a souvenir or two, but I could hardly get myself to make eye contact with anyone. I wanted to look around, to take it all in, but I was afraid if I did, I’d have to purchase the whole town! And good lord, if I’d bought tequila from everyone who offered, I would have been passed out by noon. I could tell that each salesperson I passed knew I was a sucker. That was it. I was done for. I really should have named this blog, “How I Nearly Bought a Mexican City.” Eep!

There was no hope until… Don, my boyfriend, took over.

Oh how my liver and wallet thank him until this day! He must have noticed my growing anxiety. Don took my hand and proceeded to show off his bargaining skills. I watched with awe as he spoke with carefully chosen salesmen. They’d start off ridiculously high, to which he’d come back with something ridiculously low. The salesperson would laugh and scoff at him but come down to a more reasonable price. After a bit more back and forth, he would turn to me with a skeptical look that said, “Go with it,” and ask me what I thought. Caught up in his confidence, I started playing the game too. I’d look concerned and say, “I don’t know, hon, that seems like a lot.”

Hearing it, he’d tell the salesperson, “Sorry. The old lady won’t let me spend that much.” And the salesman would bring the price down AGAIN! I was in awe. Little did I know he had more up his sleeve.

Don, still unsatisfied with the price, would look at the item a little bit more, sigh and say, “The guy across the street was willing to give this to me for $5.”

“HA! The guy across the street is loco!” the salesman would exclaim. “This item is worth $20 at least!”

Don would then shrug, take my hand, and we’d walk away. “Don’t look back,” he’d whisper.

Ten yards down the street, we’d hear, “OK, OK! Come back, we’ll talk.” When we returned to the stand, he’d say to us, “Listen, I can’t go any lower then $10. If I go lower than $10 I will make no money myself. $10 is my final offer.”

By now, in my head I’m screaming “TAKE IT! We win! The guy started at $75!” Don would take a deep breath, thinking it over as he looked around the man’s table. “If you throw in that painted donkey magnet, I’ll give you $10.”

“FINE!” the man would say, throwing his hands in the air, exasperated.

I never realized that this memory of my first trip to Mexico would come in handy later in life. Not because I now love haggling at yard sales, but because when it comes to negotiating advertising rates, you absolutely must use the Tijuana Method.

When I first started doing marketing, I had no idea how much things should cost, and moreover I had no idea that posted rates were highly inflated for suckers like me who didn’t know any better. In the following paragraphs I’m going to break down what we can all learn from my trip to Tijuana when negotiating ad rates.

They start high. You start low.
Everything begins with the posted rate found in their media kit. It’s basically the equivalent of them trying to take you for six times everything you’re worth. Are there companies who can pay those ridiculous rates and not care? Sure. But if you’re reading this, you’re most likely not working for one of them. When you first begin talking with your assigned sales rep, they’re going to immediately refer you to their posted rates. Let them know that that is WAY out of your marketing budget for the quarter (if not the year) and ask them if there is anything they can do to help you out. If they reply with another ridiculous number that’s still way too much, then talk with them a bit more about why you think you’d be a good fit in their magazine or television show, etc. Sell your company and product a little bit.

“We’re growing and I believe with your help we could be paying more reasonable rates in no time but we really need some help right out of the gate.”


“We have a celebrity athlete who we could probably get to do an interview if you could give us a little bit of help on the ad price.”

Things like that will help. At this point they’ll probably drop the price a bit, but only if you commit to multiple months, shows, or issues. This is not a bad thing. You really want people to consistently see your ads in the same place. Your customers will then start associating your product or company with that network, website, or magazine.

Pass the blame.
Just as Don blamed the “old lady” for not letting him spend the money, you can blame a manager, boss, or financial supervisor. Stall for a bit as you ask (or pretend to ask) the person in charge if this money is available. If the person in charge won’t pay the asking price, ask him or her what their bottom line would be. Then you have a goal to shoot for in your negotiations. On the off chance they tell you to go for it… still try to get the price lower. Then you’ll get bonus points and have extra money to spend elsewhere.

When you go back to your sales rep, let them know that you just don’t have the funds at this time. Explain that you spoke with your boss and while he was willing to give a little bit extra, he wasn’t willing to give THAT much extra. Tell them how bummed you are and that you tried everything you could to get them to budge. “But it’s simply a numbers game. You’re a salesman. I’m sure you understand.” At this point there is a very good chance they will give you another offer.

“But your competitor gives me similar ad space for less.”
This is actually a really good strategy. Just make sure you’re telling the truth. If you exaggerate too much, they’ll know you’re just blowing smoke and the deal will be dead right here. All your work to this point will be lost. Maybe you negotiated your face off a few months back and got an INCREDIBLE rate with one of their competitors. If so, use this to your advantage. There is a good chance they will do what they can to price match. They don’t want potential business going exclusively to their biggest rival.

This tip can really be used at any state in the haggling game, but I suggest creating a rapport with your sales rep before tossing this one out. Most of the sales reps I’ve worked with are very friendly and the more they like you the more they seem to want to do what they can to work with you.

Walk away.
But understand that they may not offer you a better rate when you do. There’s a chance that they’re already negotiating with several other similar companies and might not need your business. On the other hand, they might have a quota to meet and be willing to go above and beyond. Either way, if the final price they offer is significantly out of your budget, you need to be willing to turn around and not look back. Ask them to keep you in mind in the future, especially if they have any last minute remnant space that they can give to you at a better price. This is your final sign off and depending on their situation, they may never call you again. Then again, they may indeed call you about remnant space in the future, OR they may holler down the road at you begging you to come back.

Ask for added value.
At the end of the negotiating it’s unlikely either side is going to feel like they got what they wanted. One way to ease the pain of paying a little more than you hoped is to ask if there’s any added value you can get from the transaction. Whether that’s a full article talking about your product during one of the six months you’re ad is running in their magazine, a banner running on a television show’s web page during the month your commercial airs, inclusion in a weekly e-blast, or a few extra shout outs from the radio morning show, you can typically get just a little bit more than what you are being offered. (This is your painted donkey magnet.) They aren’t going to offer these things on their own. You have to ask… and have suggestions! These added value items may seem so easy to the sales rep that they’ll happily throw them in just to officially close the deal on your business.

So those are my tips for getting more reasonable advertising rates. Just like with anything, you may not need or want to use all of these with the same person. I’ve said this in other posts of mine, but it’s imperative that you pick up the phone and talk to your sales reps if you can. This will help you get a read on their mood, their personality, etc. It will help you to know if you should start off blaming your boss or telling them that you got a better rate a few months back from their competitor. It also might let you know if it’s worthwhile trying to haggle at all. Basically, what I’m saying is to mix and match these tips based on your needs and your situation. Sometimes all of these tips will work. Sometimes you might only need one, and sometimes you might have to walk away and be OK with it.

OH! BONUS TIP! Who doesn’t love a bonus tip, right?

Speak their language.
On our way back to the car carrying a few bags of souvenirs, we must have really looked like suckers. Little did these guys know I had a superhero haggler on my arm! But by the end of the day, even Don was tired of playing the game. One particularly pushy sales guy started following us down the street despite Don’s frustrated reassurance that we were done shopping. Finally he stopped, turned around and started to speak… in Spanish. I knew Don could speak Spanish fairly well, but because of the demographics of the rural, mountain town where we lived, I never really got to experience his language skills first hand. The sales guy’s demeanor totally changed when the first syllable left Don’s mouth. Suddenly, they were both laughing like old pals and before I knew it, he handed Don a gold chain. Don inspected it and bought it for an absurd discount. The salesman patted Don on the back and walked away.

“What was that?!” I asked.

“I told him us gringos were tired and just needed to get home. He thought it was so funny that he offered me the chain for free. I told him I’d give him a few bucks for it. I think he was just happy to be speaking his own language for once today.”

Basically, the point of this story is to learn what you’re talking about. If you don’t have much experience with radio advertising, get some info from someone who does. Then you can speak the right lingo. If you are talking to a video production company and they say they need to shoot a few extra hours of b-roll and you’re clueless about what b-roll is, they will be annoyed at having to waste their time explaining such a simple concept. Having a little bit of knowledge for WHAT you should be discussing will save both you and the sales rep a lot of unnecessary aggravation.

One of my old bosses had worked for years in magazine advertising. When I felt I was being ripped off, I would often get him onto the phone for a conference call. He could speak to them in a way I was still learning about. Similarly, given my history within the video production world, he would make sure I was in the loop any time we were doing anything involving video. Use your resources. People love helping out, especially when it also gives them a chance to feel like an expert for a few amazing minutes in the day.

So that’s it. Go haggle your bottoms off! I hope you get great rates… and if you’re lucky you might even get a free gold chain or a painted donkey magnet out of it. Eep!

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