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Paid advertising: 5 Questions to ask before you buy

Paid advertising: 5 Questions to ask before you buy

Have you been approached for a paid advertising opportunity?

This is a growing sector in direct marketing and this is how it works:
A company or a representative calls you, leaving a message (because, really, do any of us answer our phones anymore?) telling you they’d love to spread the word about your fab business.
Sometimes, they mention your company name, sometimes it’s clear they are reading from a generic script, and other times it’s an eerily human-sounding AI call. It doesn’t matter who makes the call, the goal is the same: to take your money in exchange for exposure. Many of these advertising “opportunities” hold the promise of exposure to a vast audience and are sold as “a great way to share your expertise”. Back in my early days as a magazine writer, we called these advertorials, and marked those pages as such. In today’s digital world, that doesn’t always happen – think of a video that went viral only to discover days later it was actually a cleverly financed and promoted ad.

If you are contacted for a paid advertising opportunity, here are some important questions, beyond “How much will this cost?” that you need to ask.

  1. WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF THE AD? It’s important to know what the angle will be. Will you see the questions before the interview? Do you have any control on what topics are covered? Make sure your area of expertise is what is being focussed on and that the show/interview/magazine/podcast makes sense for your business.
  2. WHERE IS THIS CONTENT GOING TO BE POSTED? In order to maximize value, you naturally want this content to be in as many places as possible. Ask for a list of where the content will be posted and decide if it’s where your audience can be found. For example, there’s no sense paying for ad space in an airport when your customers all have a fear of flying. You need to know where the ad will live, and you should ask for numbers regarding audience.
  3. CAN I SEE YOUR NUMBERS? You have every right to ask for this information and verify where you can (social media or YouTube will show you the numbers). Be critical of what you are looking at: 100,000 followers or subscribers with very little activity on posts (likes) or videos (views) is a strong indication that there is little engagement. If your instinct tells you you can earn more views on your own videos without paying for adverts, listen.
  4. CAN I TALK TO SOME PAST CLIENTS? If you were hiring a contractor to build a deck, you’d want referrals, right? The same rule applies here. Ask for names and numbers, or reach out on your own if past clients are easily discoverable (if they’re not, that’s a red flag too). Ask past clients point blank if they felt it was worth the investment. Ask for some ideas on how you can maximize your value. 
  5. WHO MANAGES THE CREATIVE? I bring this up because, as a video content producer, the finished, edited product is important to me. If you are paying for advertising, you want perfect audio, clean visuals and you want to know if a professional is handling the creation of the final product.

Whatever you decide, don’t succumb to pressure tactics. When you rush into something, the outcome is usually less than stellar. Listen to what your instincts – and others who have paid for this kind of advertising – have to say. Be wary, proceed with caution and ask the questions that can help you determine if this is the right choice for your business.