The Myth of the Advertising Rate Card

People and companies who sell advertising will often have a rate card. The rate card lists the advertising options that they offer alongside pricing. And when dealing with them for the first time, marketers are often led to believe that these prices are the actual prices that advertisers pay.


Anyone who has been in marketing or advertising for enough time knows that rate cards lie. They provide a starting place for negotiation, but only the most naïve advertisers pay the full rate.

When you are shown a rate card, I recommend you ask three questions:

  1. How much do other advertisers pay compared to these prices?
  2. What type of bulk discounts do you offer advertisers who sign larger contracts?
  3. What is the absolute lowest price you can offer to test out this market?

These questions will help you start to get at the real prices that are not shown on any rate card. It’s the salesperson’s job to make sales. And the larger their sales, the better. So they won’t go straight to the lowest price they can offer.

Remember, it’s a negotiation. When you’re buying advertising, you’re holding the cards. There are plenty of other places you can spend your money. And if they want your business, they need to offer prices that meet your needs.

Don’t believe the prices on the rate cards. No one is actually paying them.