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PR Measurement: 7 Compelling Reasons To Dump The AVE

The Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) was, for a very long time, the most widely used tool for measuring the effectiveness of PR campaigns. However, it’s integrity was based on certain assumptions which, with the benefit of experience, have proved to be patently flawed. The PR community has finally come to terms with this reality, and the AVE has since ceased to be an acceptable PR metric. Here are 7 good reasons why:

# No. 1: AVE Measures Output, Not Outcomes

PR objectives are invariably about qualitative ‘outcomes’ (behavior and attitude change, perception, etc.), not quantitative ‘output’ like media mentions, which is what AVE measures. It does not scientifically establish a correlation between the output recorded and the outcomes expected.

# No. 2: AVE Does Not Take Account Of Negative Mentions

AVE works on the assumption that all the news output is positive. But we know this is not always the case. Some people try to discount ‘negative’ AVE, but that in itself is not realistic, because that approach does not place an accurate value on the extent of damage to reputation occasioned by the negative report.

# No. 3: There Is No Universal Standard For Computing ‘PR Value’

AVE is useful to the PR man to the extent that it enables him compute the PR Value of his media output. Theoretically, PR Value is AVE multiplied by ‘x’, where ‘x’ represents the ‘credibility’ or ‘third party endorsement’ factor, which editorial output intrinsically enjoys. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted value for ‘x’ – it could range from 3 to 12 depending on the market! Without a universally acceptable multiplier benchmark, of what value is the AVE to PR measurement then, seeing as different people measuring the same campaign are likely to end up with different results?

# No. 4: AVE Does Not Measure How Much Mention

AVE does not reflect the amount or quality of mention the brand gets within the story. Is it a headline mention, or just a passive reference buried deep inside the report? If competition is also featured in the story, there is no means to tell the respective scale or quality of mentions. In other words, how much of the article is really relevant, and should ideally be measured?

#No. 5: AVE Does Not Reflect ‘Actual’ Advert Rates

AVE computation is based on the published gross Rate Card rates. But we know that advertising and media buying agencies enjoy different levels of commissions on those rates. Ideally therefore, AVE should be calculated on the actual, net advert rate. How do you determine that universally and across board?

#No. 6: AVE Does Not Show Who’s Reading!

AVE at best measures what is published, not who, or how many people, actually read the articles. This point is particularly important given the current trend in which there is a world-wide decline in print media readership. The ‘reach’ factor is not addressed at all. Yet it should be an important KPI in PR campaign execution.

# No. 7: AVE Is Not Relevant To Online/Social Media Content

It is practically impossible to attribute any form of AVE to online or social media content. How do you, for example, assign a value to a tweet, Facebook update or blog post? When you consider that a huge part of PR is now done online, it stands to reason to question a metric that does not have ‘jurisdiction’ over such an important platform.

Postscript: Now that the AVE has been so thoroughly discredited, what are the new PR measurement options available? It is still largely Work In Progress, but ‘The Barcelona Declaration’ points the way in a new direction.

I shall discuss its high points in the second and concluding part of this piece.

John Ehiguese
CEO Mediacraft Group

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