During the 2010 meeting of global PR and communications leaders in Barcelona, mentioned in the previous post, agreed that Advertising Equivalent Values AVEs were misleading and inaccurate when measuring the effectiveness of below-the-line campaigns.
AVEs have been around since the beginnings of PR, when media channels were limited to print, radio and TV, and campaigns were far more focused on those distinct mediums. As media has evolved, so too has the ability to connect with audiences through a wider variety of channels.
Beauty is only skin deep
Business managers and accountants love AVEs; they’re nice tidy dollar values that fit neatly into spreadsheets. PR and Comms budgets often fall under marketing, and marketers tend to have ROI pretty nailed; they know that investment in advertising has a direct impact on sales. However, a call to action is far easier to align with sales results than the positive awareness that leads a consumer to consider the brand or product in the first place.
The application of dollar values to coverage was, for the most part, a calculation between the column centimetres of an article, the rate card cost of those centimetres as advertising space, and a ‘multiplier’ value, conjured up to somehow correlate an independent journalist’s creativity with that of an organisation’s ad agency.
Snake oil and statistics
While AVE measurement is more snake oil than statistics, businesses and organisations that develop benchmarks and KPIs around AVEs have either had to fabricate other measures in an attempt to realise dollar values of non-mainstream media activities, limit their activities to ensure they can be measured by AVE, or just not measure the activity at all.
The fragmentation of media and opportunities to publish to niche audiences further discredits the value of AVEs. A media release, or part thereof, that finds its way into a popular mainstream publication may be far less influential than the same release on a specialist website or blog. Yet the cost to advertise may differ significantly.
Turning water into wine
So while on the surface AVEs tick the right boxes not far below the surface the foundations are rotten. Good business managers and directors know this and understand the importance of credible metrics rather than spurious attempts to turn water into wine
New and improved
In 2015 the Barcelona Principles were refined to better align with the changing world of media metrics, check out the new guidelines here.