What to Do When You Have Too Many Yearbook Ads

Selling yearbook ads to local businesses can be a grind, but sometimes you hit that sweet spot with your advertising or someone on your committee just has the golden touch. Everything is awesome—until you end up selling more ads than you had originally projected.


But take heart, this is a good problem to have. After all, it shows that your fundraising skills are top-notch. (Take a moment to bask in that achievement, you shark.) You will have to deal with the surplus, though, and there are two paths to resolution: reorganization and renegotiation.

With reorganization, you work internally to make room for the additional yearbook ads. Renegotiation, on the other hand, involves getting buy-in for your solution from some of your advertisers. So as you plan your strategy, you are considering more than just the battle between design and funds but also the time and energy you can invest in the solution.

Let’s take a look at some different options you can take with each of these paths.

Reorganize to Find Space

With reorganization, you essentially look through your current yearbook as it stands and figure out different ways you can shuffle things around a bit to make room for the additional ads. The good thing is that you can take care of all of this within the yearbook committee. The only drawback is that you may have to compromise your ladder, design intentions, or even some content.

Add Some More Pages

Your first reaction to an ad surplus is to just add another page of yearbook ads on top of the existing pages. This is definitely a good place to start.

If you can quickly and easily add more pages to support your overflowing yearbook ads, do it. It’s a solution that pretty much keeps everyone involved in the yearbook happy.

Usually, though, it’s not that simple.

Because of the way traditional publishers bound their yearbooks, it’s likely that you’ll need to add a minimum of 4 (or even 16) pages. (TreeRing, by the way, allows you to add 2 pages at a time.) Regardless of what that minimum is, you might be adding more space than you need.

Then there’s the price tag. Extra pages cost money, and you’ll need to weigh that extra cost against what you’re gaining. This, not surprisingly, is the biggest deal of all. To help you through the decision-making process, here are several questions to ask your publisher and yourself if you’re looking to increase your page count:

  • How much do extra pages cost?
  • Are there any penalty fees associated with the extra pages?
  • What happens to people who already purchased a book?
  • Does the cost of the extra pages cut into the money we’re making off the ads?
  • If we don’t have enough ads to fill the pages, how will we fill them?

Once you have answered these answers — and you shouldn’t proceed without answering each one of them — you can make a decision on whether adding pages is the right choice. 

Discard Some Planned Content

A simpler way to make room for ads is to discard some of your planned content.

This can work really well if you only need one or two extra pages for ads or if you were struggling to knock out coverage for a specific event or topic. Of course, it can be a painful experience for someone who really liked the spread or coverage planned for those pages, so you need to tread carefully.

Ask yourself and your team:

  • Are there any planned pages or coverage that we don’t absolutely love?
  • Do we have any pages or spreads that can be combined or covered in less space?
  • How much disservice would we be doing our readers if we cut, reduced, or combined this coverage?

It may be hard to rethink your carefully constructed yearbook, but that’s one reason to have a ladder in the first place. It makes this type of exercise a little easier to visualize.

Also, two final things here: First, the yearbook advisor or senior editor should be the one who makes the final call here. Second, never cut a page you’ve already completed. That’s just way, way too painful.

Find Additional Placement

If your dedicated ad pages are overflowing, you might be able to find additional spots to place ads without compromising your design…too much.

The simplest place is your index (provided, of course, you have one). In this case, you can run ads across the bottom of the page or as sidebars or take design inspiration from the Yellow Pages (you remember that book, right?). You can also work ads fairly seamlessly on pages that only feature photos.

Again, weigh this option with your team by asking these questions:

  • How much does adding an ad impact the design of our page?
  • With these new ad spaces, do we appear to favor one advertiser over the other? Do we appear to endorse an advertiser?
  • Will we confuse our readers by including advertisements on these pages?

Ads within content pages can be a bit of a distraction and take away some of the polish of the spread, but if you’re comfortable with the answers to these questions—and you think your readers will be, too—then this can be a good option for you.

Renegotiate With Advertisers

If your yearbook is tight and can’t take too many design tweaks, or if you just don’t want to go there, you’ll have to reach out to your advertisers and work something out.

Always begin these conversations by explaining your predicament and expressing your appreciation for their support. In our experience, local businesses are extremely flexible and willing to help their local schools—especially when they’re in a jam.

Here are two solutions to pitch to them:

Decrease Size and Discount

The easiest way to get more ads to fit on a page is to decrease the size of the yearbook ads.

If you’ve sold your ads at a certain size, though, you can’t just publish smaller ads and hope no one notices. It doesn’t work that way.

You can, though, reach out to your advertisers and offer a discount for the smaller ads. If you’re only a few ads over the limit, you could even offer a special deal to your more flexible advertisers: offer businesses half the size of their original ad but for a quarter of the price.

Offer a Refund

The final option? Return an ad (and the money that comes with it).

If you go this route, the important thing is to not burn any bridges. Reiterate that you appreciate their support, but, unfortunately, you hit your ad capacity before you sold the ad and that you didn’t realize it. Apologize, offer priority placement for next year, and suggest alternative advertising channels at your school like a booster club or the school newspaper. Try to be helpful.

It’s a bummer, but you’ll get them next year.

Balance the Pros and Cons

Before making a final decision, consider the impact to the funds you have raised, your design intentions, and the time you have to invest. Keeping these priorities in mind will lead you down the right path.

While having too many yearbook ads is far from the worst problem to have, it’s not one you want to have. Take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. You can keep a closer eye on your ad capacity or create your ladder with a handful of “flex pages” that can purposely absorb ads, if needed, or hold other coverage if you fall short on ad sales. With uncertainties like ads, it’s best to have a plan in place for every scenario.