Advertising is not particularly cheap, but it is necessary. No business can live without advertising in some form; even small home industries that rely mostly on word-of-mouth need to do something to bring their products and services to the public’s attention. This could be as simple as handing out business cards or flyers at fetes or flea markets or buying space in local newsletters. Of course to be really effective it’s best to advertise in local or national newspapers, on local or national radio and, if the budget stretches that far, in magazines and on television. When determining how to spread your budget over the various advertising media, you need to know how different ads are priced and this is where rate cards come in.
Wikipedia defines a rate card as: a document containing prices and descriptions for the various ad placement options available from a media outlet.
But that is not all. To be really useful a rate card needs to tell you more about that particular medium’s audience. For instance, the rate card should contain information on its demographic – pet owners, financial advisers, women at leisure and teenagers, etc. A newspaper or magazine should provide information on its circulation and readership. They also need to include the dimensions of the various ads available, as well as contract options. All media need to let you know about schedule dates and deadlines.
In many cases the pricing on rate cards is flexible. Businesses new to advertising might not know this, which is why it’s a good idea to hire an advertising agency or media buyer to negotiate on your behalf. These agencies usually possess up-to-date rate cards for all media, including burgeoning online avenues. They also usually have good relationships with those selling advertising and will be able to negotiate discounted rates depending on the duration of your campaign, the size of the ad and the amount of advertising space available.
Shari Waters (about.com) takes a look at some of the sizing factors that affect price. She breaks down print ad sizes into 1/16th of a page, 1/8, ¼ and ½. Some magazines and newspapers don’t offer standard rates for standard sizes, however, in which case you need to look at column inch or, in some instances, pica – a typographic unit of measurement. Waters gives an example: 12 points = 1 pica or 1/6″, and 6 picas = 1″.
There is more to advertising than most people think. Rate cards help you determine which ads suit your advertising campaign and your budget. Up-to-date pricing information will help you determine how much to spend on which advertising media. They are an invaluable tool when it comes to structuring ad campaigns, so take pains to understand them.