Remnant advertising is not a widely used or understood form of media buying. A few years ago a small business and entrepreneurship columnist in USA Today endeavored to explain what remnant advertising is. Here is how he put it: Think about a carpet warehouse. It has all of those large carpet rolls, sure, but it also usually has a lot of small rolls piled up, lying around that were cut off from the big rolls. These small rolls are called remnants. Remnants are usually sold at steep discounts.
Well, the same idea often applies to advertising. Media companies rarely sell all of their big advertising space or time. Their unsold ad space or time can often be bought at steep discounts, too. That’s called remnant advertising.
Over the years, I have collected some examples of remnant ads. Though they are now defunct, the song remains the same:
- The Washington Post – “Remnant rate advertising is sold on a space available basis at 40% off the open black-and-white space rate. Color charges are also discounted at 40% off. Availability of remnant space is at the publisher’s discretion.”
- Alaska State Vacation Planner – “Let the BIDDING begin for the second annual remnant space ad sale in the Official Alaska State Vacation Planner! Historically, after ad sales close and the directories are laid out, space is filled with Alaska images and/or Alaska facts appropriate to that region. For those businesses that have not purchased a display ad in the Vacation Planner or a remnant ad in last year’s Planner, this is an opportunity to position your business in front of approximately 450,000 high potential visitors as well as on our consumer website at www.travelalaska.com. Take this one-time opportunity to test a display ad at a 75% reduction.”
Here’s the skinny: Advertising time and space can perish if not used. That 30 seconds of TV time allotted for 8:09 pm., if unsold, is lost, forever. So instead of taking a complete loss for unsold airtime or ad space, media outlets will often take far less than their usual retail fees to unload that remnant space.
This means you can buy what is typically expensive media for much, much less than normal. Newspapers, magazines, Internet sites, television, radio, mobile ads and other media sell remnant space. Remnant space advertising is especially good for testing new ads before committing a lot of money to a full campaign.
Often, media companies do not know until their deadlines that they will have unsold ad space. The secret then to using remnant space advertising effectively is being able to buy that time as soon as it becomes available, which is, needless to say, at the last minute. If you can do that — if you can have the money and ad ready to go at a moment’s notice — then big savings can be yours.
Steps to take: If you want to try remnant space advertising, here are the steps to take:
- Decide upon the ad: First, create an ad that you can use on a moment’s notice. That means that the ad cannot be time-sensitive (i.e., talking about a sale this Saturday.) But it could be an ad that you want to try out or that has staying power. If it is a commercial, get it ready. If it is a print ad, lay it out. Either way, be ready to go when the bell rings.
- Decide on the media: Decide upon which media generally, and which stations or print sources specifically, you want the ad to run.
- Make contact: Call the ad rep for the media company and let them know you want to buy their remnant space or time. Remember too, you can choose more than one and wait to see who calls you. Let the reps know that you have both the money and the ad ready to go. Follow up in a month so that they know you are serious, and so they remember your desire.
- Monitor the results: Once you run your ad, be sure to monitor the results to see whether 1) the ad pulls, and if 2) remnant advertising works for you.