FiftyOneZeroOne

AVEs – damned but will they go away?

Posted on: December 1, 2010

Recently, the combined worthiness of AMEC, CIPR, PRSA and PRCA pronounced that Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) are dead. First it came in the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles finalised in July and then this jumble of acronyms met again in London in mid-November to reiterate their belief that AVEs must be replaced.

As readers of DummySpit and of Paul Noble’s and my book Evaluating Public Relations will know, I have criticised and opposed AVEs for a very long time. In summary, they tell us nothing and are based on a false calculation.

The Barcelona Declaration’s Principle 5 says “AVEs are Not the Value of Public Relations”. It goes on to say that AVEs “do not measure the value of public relations and do not inform future activity; they measure the cost of media space and are rejected as a concept to value public relations.”

This is the PR equivalent of the Christian baptismal promise to “reject Satan and all his works” and it was positive to see immediate statements from CIPR and PRCA supporting the move away from AVEs. The speakers at the London Measurement Conference are also well worth reviewing for their views.

What will happen now? AVEs continue to be very popular with 2009 research finding that they appear in over 40% of evaluations.

An immediate step would be to bar them as supportive evidence in industry award entries, thus denying their legitimacy. When industry leaders were asked directly to do this, there was some foot-shuffling but general assent that judging criteria should recognise more robust evaluation methods. That’s a good step forward. Already PRSA weights evaluation methods as 25% of the score in its Silver Anvil awards, with AVEs given little credit. Let’s hope other industry awards follow that lead and roll back decades of unprofessional practice.

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Tom Watson

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