Tuesday 8 September 2009

Daylight robbery

I'm aware that I risk mixing metaphors by using the image of the vulture after the heading above, but both are apt. You decide which works best.

I am frequently surprised by stories of publishing companies selling advertising space in various journals and magazines with the promise of great returns.

The sales tactic will be familiar to many readers.

"We have just had a cancellation, this is well below rate card, etc..."

Sadly, many fundraisers seem too soft to say no - or too inexperienced to ask for evidence that these ads work. And the publishers exploit their gentle nature mercilessly. I know of one small to medium sized charity that was spending £80,000 a year on advertising in solicitors' journals - as they are somewhat ambitiously called - without anything to show for it.

One of our clients surprised us a couple of years ago, when he announced, "oh, but you're wrong ... we did get a response from a solicitor's journal; we put a different 'room number' in the registered address shown in each ad so we could track any response". Astonished, we asked for more detail. "Well, in fact," he continued, "it was just on the envelope from the solicitor - the will inside featured an entirely different address."

We have given up hope of ever seeing evidence that these ads work.

Crucially, we can think of many better ways for a legacy department to spend even £500 - never mind £80,000.

But why my sudden catharsis?

Well I received an email today from one of the publishers in question, and I have reproduced a slightly edited version below to show that the [insert animal shown in photograph above] even try their [insert blog title] with agencies:

"I know that you are very busy this week, but I wanted to contact you as I have a last minute position available in the XXXX publication and as we spoke previously, I wanted to offer it to you first.

I spoke to your colleague XXXX who suggested that I contact you via email first.

The campaign has actually closed for this year, but one of my Fundraising clients phoned this morning and pulled out on a full page, as they are undergoing a re-brand and are unable to provide copy for me in time, really leaving me in the lurch and in a lot of trouble with Editorial.
[I laughed out loud at that bit]

I know this year is going to be so important for fundraising and I have come to you at the very last minute, so that is why I are
[sic] offering you this final last minute deal for a full page within the XXXX for the coming year.

We can offer you a full page, colour, glossy advert space within our limited preliminary section for £x for the coming year, and this is well below the rate card price of £y.

I can offer this to you at this price as it is a last minute deal and because I want to fill the space with a company that can provide a valuable and important service for charities. This means that you will be getting the same, full exposure as your competitors within the XXXX, but you would be paying a fraction of the cost.

I know you have been incredibly busy this week, but I am so confident with the XXXX publication, we have actually grown 14% in the last year, which really speaks for itself.

As I mentioned earlier, we are ready to sign off on the publication, so this would be your last opportunity to be a part of XXXX.

We can give you an extension on the copy deadline up until the 14th, so that you can sign the copy off when you are in the office.

I will call you back tomorrow to discuss this further."

Clearly publishers need to earn a living too, but my objection is the way in which, without exception, they are happy to take money from charities without being able to offer any guarantee of likely returns.

Fundraisers - take a stand against this!

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