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Pay for Performance (p4p) Advertising


Businesses around the world invest, or to be more precise, they spend, untold numbers of dollars to advertise, market and promote their products and services to make sales and gain new clients. In an economic downturn these expenditures may be reduced due to cost constraints and consumer reluctance to buy.

As an example it costs around $1,000usd for a small classified advertisement in the weekend editions of major USA newspapers, $2-3,000usd for a similar placement in monthly travel magazines.  Radio spots, from ‘cheap and nasty’ during the hours when nobody is really awake to prime time messages to thousands, the majority of whom may not be interested and many of the rest may just go to a competitor.  In effect, business advertisers may often pay for ‘lack of performance’.  Either the advertising copy was ineffective or the reach of the medium and quality of the audience was ineffective.

In other fields of endeavour we work, perform, produce and then get paid.  Why not in advertising? 

It may be the time to rethink the effectiveness of our advertising spend and to rethink who we spend it with, what we spend it on, when we should spend it, where we should spend it, why we are spending it, how we should spend it?  Or even, ‘if’ we should spend it.

In other words, how can we get more value from our advertising spend? Is there a better way?

The internet affords us all exceptional opportunities to showcase our wares but the same problem arises: how do small businesses let the world know about their own websites when contending with the major players who are always able to buy more  ‘googling’ stuff than they can?

As well as being approached by media reps from local to national newspapers and magazines, small businesses now get inundated with internet offers such as: ‘top 10 search engine rankings for your website;  50,000 hits guaranteed;  increased visits assured with our email programs to our double opt-in email clients.’ And so on and so forth. The emails arrive daily to inboxes everywhere.

Businesses do not want looky-loos clogging up their websites. They want committed buyers to review and compare their products to others.  They do not want to give their hard-earned money to advertisers who simply want to sell advertising space. They want advertising partners.

Businesses should be given the opportunity to work with a ‘pay for performance’ option for their own advertising spend. In other words, “work with me, perform with me, produce with me, get results with me and then bill me.”  The P4P partnership could generate more advertising revenue than the old system of  “just pay, shut up, wait and be thankful for what you get.”  Let’s consider a P4P arrangement where a percentage of sales is given to advertisers who produce sales. Many businesses might welcome such an opportunity to partner with forward-thinking advertisers. Just consider how much more advertising copy could be placed.

An example:

A business that operates websites that offer travel in over 70 countries and with products available to travellers in all countries.  This company needs to advertise in every country, in all traditional media and in all e-commerce media such as e-newsletters, ezines and websites plus tv, radio and of course the electronic social media. To do this would take an enormous budget, which is not available, but to do this on a P4P arrangement could lead to sales growth that could never be realized with the traditional methods.  There could be many similar businesses around the world that could also grow more quickly.  Advertisers who are willing to accept a radical change in their business practices by operating a P4P option could also benefit from the business growth of the thousands of global businesses that would embrace this innovative new concept.  Sharing the risk of both success and failure.  End of example.

The way we now advertise, market and promote business must change.  Advertisers should consider P4P and share the risk and the greater rewards for performance. The advertising industry could experience more business, more profits and lead global economic recovery.

More global businesses will readily accept a P4P partnership.  Businesses and advertisers can perform together and make better returns for both by sharing the risk and producing improved sales.  However, the P4P format should only be implemented when both parties agree that it could produce better incomes for both parties.  If advertisers consider that there would be no benefits for them with a P4P arrangement, the business has to also rethink their own advertising methods and lack of confidence of the advertiser for declining the arrangement.  A catch 22, but real world.

Although most businesses do not want window shoppers, looky-loos, timewasters, or those who unfortunately cannot afford to buy, they must also be aware that, in travel anyway, “today’s backpacker may be tomorrow’s luxury travel buyer” and should be nurtured and even developed as future customers.  A P4P partnership of media and business could develop improved campaigns leading to healthier long-term business growth for all partners.

A recent real case example for internet advertising is as follows:

An internet marketing company stating that they had ‘a list of 3,000,000 enthusiastic travellers’ recently approached a local business.  Before even asking for the cost of using their services the business owner switched the tactics by offering them the opportunity to send their message to this list over a period of months, but on a P4P basis (at their cost).  The business owner offered to pay them $10usd per sale (out of a $35 total sale).  Their comments, “we do not do business that way.” 

The retort from the business owner:  “if you are not prepared to try and get 1% (yes one percent) of your database to buy my offer (30,000 x $10 = earnings of $300k), it appears to me that you do not have any confidence in your own database, my offer, or my product, but you would take my money upfront even though you have no belief in the success of the mailing. This is not the way I want to do business and you are not the company I want to do business with.”

If advertisers believe that your advertisement will work for you why would they not want to earn a better income from a P4P arrangement?  Or do they really have an in-house ethical conflict between editorial and advertising departments?  If so, what are advertorials and the published press releases sent from public relations agencies?

Over the years all types of businesses have been convinced by all forms of media to advertise but rarely are they asked to assess the results of the advertisement.  Advertisers keep taking the money.  Businesses keep on doing the same thing because they have been convinced that they need to be seen and to “do it this way.”  Well, maybe it’s time for a change.

The present economic climate is causing stress and strife around the world. Advertisers could find that they have so much white space available forcing them to print thinner newspapers and to offer discounted rates to their recession-proof clients.  But what if these advertising agencies and media outlets started to work on a P4P basis with all types of businesses to create new partnerships of media and frontline operations from restaurants to who knows what?  A win for the media, a win for the businesses and a win for the buyers who stay informed and are kept aware of local, regional or international opportunities.  And maybe full staffing, thick papers and magazines, robust ezines and e-newsletters that will make us all feel more confident about the economy.

Not all situations will allow a p4p partnership but there are enough out there to reward all parties and all we need to do is develop simple operating systems to make this new way attractive and secure for all participants.

The business in the example above could operate on a P4P basis.  It could have a P4P arrangement with many different partners in many different countries at the same time. Any downside for the media partners would be minimized by their thorough understanding of the business services and products. They would know the wants and needs of the business and so be in a position to not just accept an advertisement but to be totally involved in the generation of leads and buyers.  All partners could get the maximum benefit from the opportunity because the only way to earn revenues is to produce results by better use of skills, creativity, contacts and advertising reach.

A simple method for internet businesses is for unique pages or URLs to be set up for each P4P operation so that accurate assessments can be made of the specific promotion and the fees based on the same statistics and buyers.   Another ‘comfort-zone’ action could be for the media P4P partner to collect the ‘gross takings’ and to remit the net after deductions, to the other partner.  Vouchers can be created giving all parties an audit trail.  Trust is paramount in P4P partnerships.

Many small businesses will survive and help save the global economies. Big business will continue heavy layoffs, cutbacks and corrections until the good times roll again, which could be a long way into the future.  Let’s take action now.

Small business together with Small Internet Media (e-newsletters, ezines) and other Smart Media can try new ways to pull us all out of the economic mire. If they seriously consider this new way of advertising, marketing and promotion ‘with’ their clients, not ‘for’ their clients, they can  “get going now, or they can sit back, take no risks, take no chances, ignore P4P opportunities, downsize, get laid off, change careers, move away or just keep doing the same old thing and stagnate.”

Thousands of businesses around the world would welcome approaches from all forms of media to advertise, market and promote within a P4P partnership arrangement. This could be a simple way to not only help business survival in the recession but will enable us to prepare for future growth.

We go to work, perform our duties, finish the job, produce results and then we get paid. Why then should we not expect to pay only for the ‘results’ of’ our advertising and not just ‘for’ advertising?

Imagine the global acceptance of P4P.  Businesses would be able to advertise anywhere and would never again have budgetary restrictions to advertise, market and promote sales. Media businesses would be getting new clients from places that they would never have considered and at the same time, helping their own clients to expand.   Why don’t we do it?

Just because; “We don’t do business that way” is unacceptable!

The positive side of an economic downturn is that new opportunities arise for creative and progressive entrepreneurs to start new ventures such as P4P advertising.  They are out there.

A UK Chartered Accountant with over 40yrs of international travel and over 25yrs in the travel industry. Editor of and developer of the TopTravelVoucher service at

About Emma G.

Working in the marketing industry since 2002. This blog is one of my hobbies.

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