What to Look for When Buying Print Advertising for Clients

by Yasmine Moulin

As a marketing manager, what should you look for when buying print advertising for your clients? Here are 10 points + a Bonus for savvy marketing persons to use as a guide and in buying print advertising for their clients.

  1. Access to copies – The issue is ready. How many can you access for free? Does the publication allow for unlimited copies (great for spreading around or distributing at a launch event), just a few, or more with additional payment?
  1. Market – Ask for a Media Kit which clearly outlines their readers – age, sex, income, location, spending habits, etc. Is this your actual market or the market you wish to reach? Ask how their information is gathered. Have the advertising representation show you and if they cannot answer, ask them to refer you to someone who can.
  1. Circulation – Reference the Media Kit for the circulation. Ask how the circulation is calculated. Newspaper based publications have a different ratio as compared to print magazines. Newspapers are rarely shared whereas a print magazine is considered shared between 2-5 times depending of market and level of sophistication. A glossy magazine may print 150,000 copies but may say that their reach is 600,000 if it is determined that 4 people will have contact with the magazine before shelving/recycling. This is to be taken with a grain of salt. The number may appear to be incredible but do not be swayed. If you doubt a publication is actually printing as many as they claim, as for verification. A shipping manifest or weigh bill will show you how many copies are actually shipped. There is no cost calculations on these documents and do not reveal any company secrets.
  1. Distribution – Is the distribution verified? Many glossy magazines have companies that distribute to news stands, doctors offices, hotels, condo mailrooms, retail stores, airports, etc. Ask for a list of where the magazine is available and verify. If the Media Kit says it is available in luxury hotel rooms, airplane seat backs, etc., call the companies and ask for Customer Service. Ask ‘If I am staying in the hotel what publications are available to me? When I fly this month, will the latest issue of … be available to me?’ If the Media Kit indicates that the publication is distributed through other cities and provinces, ask where and email a random selection for verification. If you have doubts of the publishers claims, look to the Masthead of the publication and call the printing company to verify the latest issue was indeed shipped (for example) to Calgary, Edmonton, the Island. News stands are easy to verify as a majority of our local drug stores have magazine sections – walk into London Drugs or Shoppers Drug Mart and look. Document your findings and contact your Advertising Representative if you are unable to repeatedly find the publication.
  1. Payments – Are you paying the publication directly or are they requesting a third party handle your contract? Many companies, when they are cash strapped, will sell their Receivables to a third party who pay a percentage of the value of the contract. This ‘factoring’ company has only its own best interest in mind and, if in the future, the publication goes out of business or ceases to publish, you will be on the hook for the rest of the contract and will be forced into legal action.
  1. Publishing on time – This is very important. If the publication you are looking to advertise in publishes every two months, you are paying for two months worth of exposure for your product/client. If the magazine is late one, two, or more weeks, you are not receiving the exposure you have agreed to. A reputable publisher will do everything in its power to ensure that every issue is out on time every time. If you are not familiar with the publication, ensure that you check its availability one the day it is to be available to the public. If it is not available, keep track of various locations where it is supposed distributed, contact your advertising representative and request a refund but be prepared to provide details.
  1. Customer Satisfaction – Before you sign a contract, contact other advertisers. Ask how satisfied they are with the publication and whether they deliver on their promises. Be bold! Do not bother with references the Ad Rep may give, these will be pre-cleared and will tell you nothing but wonderful things. 🙂 Also, do not be afraid to contact writers. If you are specifically buying ad space next to a certain columnist, email them and ask for a reference on the publication. In 2018, we are all aware that while receiving value for our money is important, so are human rights and quality of life.
  1. Delivering Quality – If you are paying for quality – paper weight, image resolution, clean cutting, binding, trim, etc. be sure to compare to the sample copies the Ad Rep may have given you to the ones available to you. Be very detailed oriented. If a publication is falling on hard times, they will begin to scrimp on paper stock, level of glossy, image resolution, and bindery.
  1. Content – If your product/client falls into a certain niche, ie. high-end kitchen appliances, ensure the content of the publication is suitable. If your choice is a ‘Home and Lifestyle’ type of magazine, ensure that the content stays consistent. Watch to see if they veer away and start losing their focus with advertorials or spotlights on persons/companies that do not ‘fit’. This is usually an attempt to bring in additional funds and may signal problems which will impact your advertisement getting in front the audience you paid for. Do you want your produce/client ad tucked behind a multipage unmarked advertorial plus full-page advertisement from your competitor?
  1. Are they a member of the Magazine Association of BC? This non-profit organization does many things but has guidelines that outline how content that is sponsored or custom-created is represented to the reading audience. This is important for the reading audience so they are not unduly influenced by content which may affect how your product/client is perceived. No one likes to be duped.

Bonus: Before signing a contract with any publication, visit the Court Services Registry of BC and find out about their business. This is a free service and by searching the parent company or the owners name, details of all court cases registered in Small Claims, Supreme, Civil, and Traffic Court are accessible. If a company has a long history of litigation, be forewarned of issues that may arise in the future.

Yasmine Moulin is a business consultant and owner of Yasmine Moulin Consulting (YMC). Her passion and focus is helping individuals, entrepreneurs, start-ups and small to medium-sized businesses propel their businesses and careers forward to the next level of what success looks like to them. She provides social media; professional development and executive leadership programs and retreats; career coaching; and professional business writing services.


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