Like a bad penny, the subject of using advertising value or advertising value equivalents (AVEs) to measure public relations just keeps coming back. My most recent discussion of the issue occurred yesterday. While frustrating to the majority of public relations professionals, it is easy to see why the topic keeps being raised. As an industry we are desperate to be able to quickly and inexpensively assign a dollar value to our media relations efforts. Assigning a value to the real estate as AVEs do is a path of least resistance. But that doesn't make it right – it just makes it easy.
Here are nine reasons why AVEs are a poor metric for public relations. It is a bit uncomfortable to have a list of nine – makes it look like we were too lazy to come up with a tenth.! So, please post your reasons why AVEs are evil! I know we missed a few…
1. Advertisements and editorial articles are perceived differently by receivers/readers. Editorial material benefits from the credibility of a third-party (the publication) by earning, not paying, its way into the magazine, newspaper or broadcast
2. AVEs equate an article with the appearance cost of an advertisement. It does not speak at all to the results or impact that the article may have on a reader. Advertisers do not judge the success of advertising on how much the insertions cost. The true value of an ad or article is in what it does – the outcome or impact, not the cost of appearance.
3. AVEs do not address the value of several important aspects of public relations including strategic counsel, crisis communications, grassroots, viral campaigns or public affairs. In other words, AVEs reduce PR to just the media dimension by only assigning a value in this area. If only AVEs are used to assess PR value, the results may be much understated when considering the totality of value delivered by PR.
4. AVEs cannot measure the value of keeping a client with potentially negative news (e.g. layoff, scandal) out of the media, yet that may be the primary objective of the PR practitioner. How much is it worth for a troubled company to not appear in the Wall Street Journal? AVEs cannot address this.
5. Impression information for public relations is somewhat inconsistent. Online impressions figures are not as reliable as print or broadcast, and are generally believed to be overstated The fact that they are inflated skews AVE calculations to overstate the value of online media, often assigning unbelievable values to online articles compared to their print counterparts. This hurts credibility and believability.
6. AVEs do not properly distinguish between hits/articles that appear in ‘high value’ columns or publications and articles in more general or generic publications. The calculation is based on ad cost only. The value of appearing in a Walt Mossberg column in the WSJ or on Oprah with your new book far exceeds the cost of an advertisement in the WSJ or on Oprah due to the implied or explicit endorsement with earned media.
7. Advertising and PR actually work together synergistically, yet AVEs treat them essentially as equals or alternatives. Ads that run in a climate of positive publicity actually receive lift from the PR. Conversely, ads run in an environment of negative publicity will likely not be successful and/or may be perceived negatively by consumers/customers.
8. AVEs are generally calculated by mainly, or only, taking into account the physical size of the article, and then equating that to the cost/value of an advertisement of the same size. Often, article valence is not even considered, so a predominantly negative article would add positively to the overall AVE calculation.
9. Some groups have devised their own ways to calculate AVEs. PR articles are generally rated or scored as part of an algorithm used to calculate AVEs. Factors considered might include brand prominence within the article, competitive mentions, overall article tonality and finally size/length of the article.
The problem here is there is no standard way to ‘score’ PR articles to implement an AVE system.
For more information on AVEs please see: