Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) has been the bain of my life ever since I started working in PR and I’m really pleased that there is so much talk about abolishing it as an industry standard.
AVE is a method of measuring the effectiveness of media coverage. This is done by measuring the space (column inches or for radio and television coverage time), then multiplying this by the ad rate for that page (time slot). Then often multiplying this figure by three because media is more impartial. As a result the final figures provide amazing ROI. Boards, Directors, CEO’s and anyone who needs to have ‘figures’ as proof love it. But is it realistic? No, of course not and to be honest I always felt a bit fake when I presented AVE figures to anyone. Why? because media coverage is not advertising and also multiplying the cost of advertising by 3 always seemed a bit unsubstantiated.
With AVE there is no measurement of positivity, neutrality, negativity, how influential the journalist is, who reads it, nor whether the key messages were included. How do you realistically measure a front cover or a headline on a news programme in terms of advertising? How do you measure the BBC which doesn’t have advertising?
The real benefit of media compared to advertising is that it comes from a third-party, people are more likely to believe and be influenced by what a journalist has written than a company in their own advert. Having said that, a consumer telling people they love a product is probably even more believable than a journalist.
However the problem with abolishing AVE is that it’s hard enough convincing people that media coverage is important and needs investment, let alone without having some ‘factual stats’. We do need a way to show that media is hugely important in raising awareness.
Online media can help to demonstrate the importance as you can track much further than how many people visit that media outlet on a daily basis. You can measure the number of people who actually saw the article, the time of day, how long they stayed on that page, what website they come from and where they went afterwards. If the article links to your website you can provide proof of its effectiveness by using measurement tools to show where people have come from before they visited your page, plus your website ranking is also partly determined by links in and you can also track social media links, mentions and blog mentions about your article. It’s still not an exact science but an area where I feel much more comfortable about promoting stats. Although Twitter influence figures should be avoided at all costs!
I think my ideal would be to abolish AVE, take everything online where it is much easier to provide accurate stats and evidence of effectiveness, and educate key staff as to the importance of media coverage.