Once, not that long ago, the introduction of AVEs prompted PR people to put away their rulers in favour of a more commercial measurement technique for brands’ media coverage. But now, the continued use of AVEs smacks of a quiet desperation. They are like a sad embodiment of PR’s inferiority complex towards the advertising community in spreadsheet form.
In economics, cost and value clearly aren’t the same thing, so marrying the price of advertising space to the outputs of media relations programmes is really rather pointless. AVEs don’t enable us to understand and measure the benefit of activities that keep brands out of the headlines, messaging cut-through in editorial vs. that allowed in advertising placements. Perhaps most importantly though, they can’t measure an overall campaign and won’t help us to look at social or online media in any form.
So why are they still being used? AVEs are a comfort blanket. When clients or agencies find themselves reaching for metrics to prove the value of their work, AVEs are a convenient crutch.
There’s still a significant amount of education to be done across the industry to raise awareness of better alternatives. As agencies, we have a responsibility to service clients to the best to their ability – and that’s not always about saying yes. Agreeing to provide AVEs to a client is a lazy option. If clients ask for AVEs then we should do our best to advise on the latest practice, like AMEC’s Barcelona Principles, which have gathered momentum as industry support for them has grown.
Measuring the true impact of our campaigns remains challenging for agencies and in-house teams alike, but we need to become more savvy about using data to track and measure our work. Communications experts are not necessarily data experts, but we need to keep working to refine better ways of monitoring, collecting and analysing data, especially as the size, scope and nature of the work we do continues to evolve.