How To Barter For Advertising

By James Harvey Stout (deceased). This material is now in the public domain. The complete collection of Mr. Stout's writing is now at .


Jump to the following topics:

  1. Bartering is common in virtually all media. 
  2. We can negotiate a deal with the media.  

Bartering is common in virtually all media. The media must sell their advertising space (or time) or else the deadline will pass, and the opportunity will be lost forever. Therefore, many publishers and broadcasters are eager to "trade out" their unsold ad space or time, whether the company is a small weekly newspaper or a large television network like NBC. We can use the following approaches in acquiring advertising for our business:

  1. Trades with other barter-club members. In many barter clubs, some of the members are owners of media. In the directory of one club, there were 8 ad agencies, 16 companies for ad design and production, 8 direct mail advertising services, 14 newspapers, 14 radio stations, 8 specialty advertising manufacturers (with printed T-shirts, buttons, stand-up displays, etc.), and companies which specialize in coupon ads, aerial ads, and billboards.
  2. Direct trades. The media might accept our goods and services in a one-to-one trade. The possibilities include:
    • Supplying the media's needs. Like any other business, these companies need office supplies, computer equipment, printing, office furniture, cleaning, catering, plumbing, vehicle maintenance, hotel rooms for visitors, etc.
    • Supplying prizes. When media have contests, the prizes are usually acquired by bartering; for example, if the prize is a free lunch at a restaurant, the restaurant is probably trading that lunch for some advertising.
  3. Publicity. The possibilities include:
    • Donations. We can get publicity in exchange for a donation (of goods or services) to a local charity. If the charity is putting on a benefit, our company's name will be displayed in the event's program.
    • Press releases. We barter whenever we send a press release to the media; for example, we are providing news to fill a newspaper's page, and the newspaper is providing publicity for us.
    • Talk shows. As with press releases, we are providing a service -- filling a talk show's schedule -- in exchange for publicity.
    • Volunteer work. Whether we are hammering nails or delivering a public talk, we are providing a service while getting publicity for our business.
  4. The barter club's directory and newsletter.
    • The directory. The barter-club directory is like a phone directory; it contains the name, address, and description of every member. As in a phone directory, we can have a simple listing, or we can buy a larger ad.
    • The newsletter. Our company might be mentioned in a "new members" section of the newsletter. Also, we can buy space for a display ad in the newsletter; one barter club charges $60 for a full-page ad (8.5" x 11"). Some franchised clubs have national newsletters (in addition to the local newsletter), so that we can advertise our goods and services nationwide.
    • Direct references. Some clubs don't have directories; instead, a member calls the club to get a referral to someone who can supply a specific item or service.
    • Showrooms. A few barter clubs have stores which display some of the goods which are offered by members.
  5. Barter brokers. Barter brokers create one-to-one deals between companies, for a commission (which is approximately 15% from both parties). Brokers are useful for finding someone who wants our goods or services, and for negotiating the deal. In some cases, brokers set up three-way trades (involving three parties), or they trade directly from their own inventory of advertising time and space.
  6. Ad agencies. Agencies are familiar with bartering, so they can help us to negotiate deals with media and with barter brokers.

We can negotiate a deal with the media. These factors are important:

  1. Discounts. Discounts vary, and they are negotiable.
  2. Prices.
    • Barter brokers want to trade merchandise at the full retail price for the regular ad rate because they earn a commission on the cash value of the trade.
    • Publishers and broadcasters want to barter advertising at their normal rate for the lowest wholesale cost of the goods which they want.
  3. Non-competition. One hazard is that the barter broker will sell our goods or services at a discount in our own market area, unless our contract prohibits the broker from selling within this market area.
  4. Time limits. The contract might require us to use the advertising before a particular date.
  5. Availability.
    • We might permit the station to broadcast the ads at the time of its choice. Of course, if will choose to broadcast our ads in the time-slots which it couldn't sell for cash.
    • We might allow the station to use our service only during slow periods, or only during periods when we need the extra advertising. For example, we might permit the station to book our hotel rooms only on weekdays, when we always have extra rooms.