Better Ad Sales Through Creativity: “Buy an Ad. Get a Cat.”

In the 1980’s, I ran an in-house ad in my nerdy Computer Language magazine titled, “Buy an Ad. Get a Cat.”  My 15 minutes of fame from this ad has lasted for over 30 years.

buy an ad, get a cat

The original buy an ad, get a cat in-house ad from Computer Language

To this day, I literally get asked hundreds of times a year about “that cat thing.”  Since then I’ve inspired many of my Camp Niche ad sales trainees to rip off the idea for their own magazines: “Buy an Ad. Get  a… Horse, Ant Farm, Brother-in-law, Lobster..”– you name it.  And my wonderful conference attendees have also stolen and substituted what they’re hawking for my original cat give-away promotion with great results.

Now, I’m not going to go into the whole “cat story” here.  Hey, for the full, uncut version you need to attend one of our Camp Niche Ad Sales Trainings.  Don’t take it personally, I’ve got rabbis and priests that ask what it means and I won’t spill my guts about it.  But what I WILL share with YOU is the great idea behind it.

90% of today’s ad salespeople are too vanilla and boring. They call up and ask: “How are you doing? How’s the ad working? Did you get the media kit?” Then the conversation ends right there. (By the way, do media buyers eat these kits?  What do they really do with them, anyway?)

You need to do something to separate yourself from the pack of dull ad sales people to get noticed, be remembered, and connect with media buyers.  Here are some examples:

  • A woman that I met years ago from Bon Appetit told me that she was famous and successful because of her brownies. Really! She said with every visit to an agency she arrived with her special freshly baked brownies. Everyone in the agency would immediately smell the tray and she would walk out with the schedule.
  • David Beckler, who was with Woodworkers Journal at the time and is one of my favorite Camp Niche alumni, is  one of the most successful ad sales people I’ve ever met. He wore these crazy, loud Texas shirts. He roamed around the aisles of trade shows handing out gas cards to clients like candy.  You couldn’t forget him. Beckler also started a fun e-newsletter.  If he was ever late with the newsletter, media buyers called HIM.

OK, some of you are saying this is a bunch of hooey (or something worse). Yes, you’ve got to be a GREAT sales person to be super successful.  Do consultant selling, ask the right questions, and engage media buyers in a real conversation.

If you don’t have some unique way for people to remember you — believe me, they won’t.

Hey, I’ve lasted a full 9 lives by taking crazy chances and never being afraid to fail– it works!


Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Plus, Carl Landau – Niche Media’s Grand Poobah – just launched a blog all about creating and marketing targeted events –  Check it out!

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