Just when you thought is was safe to go back in the AVE H2O

The AVE debate is reinvigorated and rages on.   

I maintain that an AVE, as it is conceived of now, used as a stand alone metric that intends to be indicative of any measure of media relations success has had it’s day.  Enough already.  HOWEVER, if we use it a little bit more responsibly as an analytical tool (as S&P justifies it’s use) and in a methodological manner consistent with Angela Jeffrey’s media cost data or Don Bartholomew’s media value, and look at it not in aboslute terms but at the realtive changes over time, then perhaps we have something.  

Still, and I think I’m with the measurement majority here, client demands or not, I prefer to keep volleying the measurement ball back into the court of awareness, opinion, and behaviour. 

Here’s the from PR Week…

Measuring the value of AVEs

Erica Iacono PR Week USA Mar 19 2007 01:35

Ad value equivalency is probably the most controversial subject in PR

measurement. Erica Iacono examines both sides of the issue

Chris Atkins, VP of communications at Standard & Poor’s (S&P), is well

aware that using ad value equivalency (AVE) as a way to measure PR is

sure to raise questions.

“Almost anybody who is a student of PR recognizes the inherent flaws in

a lot of the methodologies that have been applied to AVE over the

years,” he says.

So when he approached David Rockland, partner and global director of

research at Ketchum, to develop an AVE model for the company, his

challenge was to provide something that could be “defensible in a

building full of people who do nothing but crunch numbers all day.”

The result was a model that uses a special algorithm – taking into

account a media placement’s reach, type and prominence of the story, and

positioning – to establish a score for each story. Once that is done,

Ketchum farms out the data to VMS’ PRTrak, which then calculates the ad

value based on word count.

A main criticism of the AVE model is that it often bases its value on an

ad rate that it is not actually paid by advertisers. Atkins says S&P’s

model takes that into account. S&P did an analysis of its fourth quarter

coverage and submitted data to PRTrak – one based on straight rate-card

data, the other based on the scoring algorithm. The raw rate card AVE

was $14 million; with the algorithm it dropped to $6.7 million.

“Because we’re being so conservative in how we calculate the value, we

feel that it’s defensible,” Atkins says. “We do not rely on it as the

sole means of demonstrating value, but many people here can get their

heads around it.”

Rather than look at AVE as a strict measure of the value of the PR

function, Atkins says S&P is using it as a planning tool.

“I think people are dead set against AVE if it’s misapplied and

misinterpreted,” he says. “We’ve developed a useful tool that hopefully

will [indicate] over time that our efforts are improving.”

Source of controversy

Certainly there are few issues in PR – and more specifically the PR

measurement community – as controversial as AVE. So understandably

Rockland, who is the newly elected chair of the Institute for PR’s

Commission on Measurement and Evaluation, is careful to point out that

his views don’t represent those of the Institute.

“I think AVEs can have a proper place in PR measurement,” he says,

adding that calculating AVEs properly is a matter of doing three things

right: using net ad rates for calculation, adjusting for quality metric

of the coverage (negative coverage, for example, should not count

favorably toward an AVE calculation), and eliminating the use of a

multiplier that automatically assumes PR is more credible than ads

unless specific research has been done to prove that point.

Don Bartholomew, director of measurement and research at MWW Group, says

part of the problem with AVE is in the name.

“I’d like the term ‘media value’ a heck of a lot better than ‘ad value’

because it’s consistent with this economic argument that we’ve assigned

a value for that space in the media,” he says. “Once you start

[comparing a PR placement] to an ad, that raises a whole other specter

of issues.”

Angela Jeffrey, VP of editorial research at VMS, says her research has

shown that there is validity to what she refers to as “media cost data”

when correlating media coverage to business outcomes.

“So far we have seen that media cost is 12.5% more accurate than

audience impressions and 25.5% more accurate than story counts when

you’re doing these correlations,” she notes.

That data also takes into account a story’s tone, placement, and how

much of it actually contains a mention of the client.

“We have to be responsive to what each client needs and what resounds

with their management,” adds Jeffrey. “I don’t think we… can dictate

what you have to do.”

But even with a name change, Bartholomew says AVEs still only measure

outputs, not outcomes.

“AVEs or media value reduce the PR conversation to just the media

relations dimension by only assigning a value in that area,” he says.

“You are what you measure. If you’re only assigning a value to media

relations, then lo and behold, that’s how people [will] think about you.

You’re not the people that help them with crisis; you’re not the ones

that do executive positioning.”

Katie Paine, president of KD Paine & Partners, echoes this sentiment.

“What you want to gauge here is audience or customer response,” she

says. “What drives a member of your target audience to behave in the way

that you want it to?”

Corporate views

A common argument made for the use of AVEs is that they are something

that corporate management wants. Mark Weiner, president of Delahaye,

says that in thousands of interviews with executives who fund PR

programs, his team has discovered this is not the case.

“Executives consider ad values and clipping volume to be reasonable and

measurable, but not meaningful,” he notes. “Conversely, they consider

PR’s ability to drive sales to be the most meaningful, but that’s

difficult to do.”

Weiner says executives prefer seeing key messages delivered to target

media than a high ad value.

Even public detractors of the AVE model run into a problem when dealing

with clients that request it. With the exception of Paine, who says she

turns clients away that want AVE, all other professionals interviewed

acknowledged that at the end of the day, it’s about what the client wants.

Says Bartholomew, “All of us recognize that in the absence of some other

way to assign a value to what is essentially output information, [AVEs

are] a necessary evil.”

AVEs – the pros and cons


AVEs are often a less expensive way to conduct PR measurement

AVEs put a dollar value on PR’s contribution, something that is often

better understood by corporate management

AVEs can be useful tools for those marketing executives deciding on how

to split money between PR and advertising


AVEs only concentrate on outputs, not outcomes, thereby limiting PR to

its media relations function

When done incorrectly, AVEs rely on rate-card data that is often not

paid by advertisers

AVEs don’t always take into account negative coverage, thereby providing

an inaccurate idea of value


3 responses to “Just when you thought is was safe to go back in the AVE H2O

  1. The AVE debate keeps going and I’m glad to see that K D Paine has a strong position on this. But what worries me further is that in a recent blog ROI calculation model from Forrester Research (none the less) which was highly praised by many bloggers.. when you dug a little deep it all rested on…an AVE calculation 😦 We can certainly come up with better than that.

  2. Pingback: Measurement Misstep of the Year Award « Measurement PRoponent / PRomulgator

  3. Pingback: Metric Formerly Known as AVE « Alan Chumley: MarComm Practitioner, University Instructor, Meas't Consultant

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