Negotiating an Advertising Barter Agreement

By Brian Luskey, writer
Mar 04, 2010
Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images

How to Acquire Ad Space Without a Marketing Budget

Looking to advertise your company in the mainstream media?  Don’t have the cash to pay standard ad rates?  For help finding willing marketing partners and tips on hammering out a fair barter deal, you’ve come to the right place.

In today’s economy, media outlets are willing to work with potential advertisers in order to beef up their print publications or fill air time on radio or television.  The key is devising creative assets that you can offer instead of cash and finding the companies that are willing to work with you.  

Organizing advertising trade deals offers several advantages, including:

  1. Reducing your marketing budget by offsetting costs with non-liquid assets
  2. Allowing you to ally your business with media partners that reach your target clientele
  3. Placing your advertising across all mediums, including newspapers, magazines, online banners, e-mail blasts, and television and radio commercials.

Research potential media partners

Find out which publications reach your consumer base and call their marketing directors or publishers to gauge interest in a barter deal.

Prioritize your advertising goals

Once a media organization is willing to entertain the idea of a cross-promotion, they are often willing to discuss many different types of marketing. Whether it's print ads, e-mail blasts or online banners, you have to decide what you want when negotiating a barter agreement. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask!
Thumbnail Media Planner can help you determine what type of advertising might work best for your company.  Media planners provide market research and standard ad rates for different kinds of media, which can help you evaluate the worth of a potential deal.

Evaluate what you can offer

Make a list of the assets you can offer and attribute a cash value to each. Of course, you should consider reciprocating any newsletter banners, email blasts, or "Thank You" signage that you can offer. But don't forget to be creative. Maybe a media partner would want to sponsor your company softball team. Perhaps they would love the idea of an exclusive coupon offered only to their customers. And because your customer base is also their audience, you could offer to distribute publications or promotional materials in your store.
Visit for insight on how to appraise the benefits you are offering on your side of the deal.  The trade-in-kind values should match up, so it’s important to know what price tag to attribute to each item included in the barter agreement.

Fulfill, fulfill, fulfill!

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of an ad barter is fulfillment. Not only do you have to make sure that you are honoring the commitments you've made, but you must also meticulously ensure that you are collecting the full benefit that you negotiated for. allows you to maintain spreadsheets that multiple people can update.  In a media barter, where one employee may handle print fulfillment and another is responsible for digital marketing, it allows you to specify which individuals can see the spreadsheet and which of those can actually update it.
  • Don't be deterred by dead ends. For example, if a media partner says that they don't send dedicated email blasts, follow up by suggesting that they give you a mention in their subscriber newsletter.
  • Manufacture clever ways to add value for media groups. If you have something newsworthy to share, be sure to pitch it to your media partners and ask them to help craft a barter campaign around it to promote your business.
  • Use your barter negotiations as a means of cultivating your media contacts. Always remember that barter deals, if nothing else, are a great first step toward building a longer business relationship. Today's media partnership could be tomorrow's most important business ally.
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