A recent newspaper story reported that a municipality was questioning whether it was necessary to continue to advertise their bid solicitations for construction projects in the newspaper, as was required by the municipal charter.
Those ads are intended to alert prospective bidders that bids are being solicited, and to make the bidding process open and public. In certain circumstances, a legal requirement to advertise for public bids may be beyond municipal control. But it seems that some municipalities go much further than necessary, and spend too much money to be in compliance. There are simple ways to significantly reduce advertising costs without changing the local charter or state law.
Here’s a case in point. A recent ad for a construction project, placed in the region’s largest newspaper, was over 161 lines long. At current rates, that ad would have cost nearly $2,000. The ad was long and drawn-out. It included a lot of unnecessary contract language, and even included details of specific laws governing the project when only a general reference would suffice. By comparison, another similar ad condensed the required information to 21 lines, which cost $1,700 less.
Here’s another tip. Laws governing advertising don’t normally stipulate the specific publication in which an ad must run. Rather than advertise in the largest metropolitan newspaper with the highest rates, advertise the project in a smaller local paper with advertising rates that can be as much as 50% less. By rewording the ad and placing it in a smaller publication, the ad cost could have easily been reduced from nearly $2,000 to just over $150.
Some municipalities are recognizing this and use this shorter format. But many are still clinging to the old, lengthy format that was implemented decades ago, if only because that’s the way it has always been done.
For those who might think that advertising in a large metropolitan newspaper with wider circulation better serves the public interest, consider that prospective bidders no longer rely on the newspapers as a primary source of leads.
There are numerous, reliable internet-based construction reporting services that provide all of the project information necessary, and contractors rely on those services as their primary source of information for work being bid. Those services routinely scan the newspapers for leads, then contact the project‘s designer or owner for more details, and ultimately report much more detailed information about the project than can be economically included in the newspaper. Whether it is published in the Megalopolis Times or the Weekly Local Dispatch, the project’s information will find itself in the reports that those services provide. And for those bidders who still might use the newspaper, every prospective bidder is going to call the designer or owner anyway for more information, regardless of whether the information published is limited or extensive.
Here’s a simple solution for reducing municipal advertising costs and still get the coverage needed.
- Include in the newspaper ad just the basic information required to identify the project, the bid due date, the contact information for the owner, designer or project manager, etc. Omit the detailed instructions to the bidders that are likely to change, and other superfluous information that is seldom read by bidders anyway.
- Place the ad in the least expensive publication. Every other reporting service will find out about it and report it as well, at no cost to the municipality.
- Place the bid notice with every construction reporting service directly. The listings are free, and the reporters are glad to hear from you. If you ask, they will even call you on a regular basis just to see if you have any projects coming out for bids.
- Have the project manager personally contact all of the usual bidders that would likely be interested in the work. Most contractors bid the same type of projects regularly, and the designers who prepare the bid documents know who they are.
- Post the bid notice, with all information necessary for bidding, on the municipal website, and the designer’s website as well. It takes very little effort to include everything a bidder would need on a web page.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got. Try a new approach.