Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

More on AVEs: Their true — and very valuable — significance.

hidden value

For serious public relations researchers, the whole AVE and advertising-money-value debate is a red herring, a colossal distraction from the real significance and potential that AVEs represent.

In my previous post, I said that Advertising Value Equivalencies are “porn for PR.” And I also said that they can be an important component of useful and valid public relations measurement. This latter use is a specific case of a brilliant and powerful research technique that public relations measurement can benefit from.

At the recent 2009 IPR Summit on PR Measurement, Angie Jeffrey provided the most marvelous quote of the whole AVE debate. She said that she used AVEs in her research as “a measure of the perceived ability of media to deliver desired outcomes.”

Brilliant. Notice that she did not say anything about advertising or money or value. (All terms that have given AVEs a bad name.) What she did say was that AVEs were used to infer something about human nature, and were used to apply this inference to public relations research.

The really important and valuable thing about AVEs is that they are an example of data from a unusual source being applied to shed new light on a research problem. This general technique is fabulously powerful. It’s being used, for example, with great fanfare in economics. (Read Levitt and Dubne’s Freakonomics if you want to know more. Actually, read my review of Freakonomics. It will be much quicker.)

Unfortunately, in real life AVEs are a research disaster. Crude users of AVEs draw a direct-but-specious line between advertising and money and PR. Because they are based on the advertising market, AVEs present an irresistible temptation for those who want a quick and easy way to compare PR to advertising, and/or to provide a monetary value for PR outputs.

Serious PR measurement people know that these uses are bogus, but many otherwise ethical measurement vendors provide their clients with crude AVEs because the demand for this sort of metric is huge. This whole mess is something that the IPR and the PR measurement industry seem to be working hard to sort out.

Thanks to Buyer Seller Insights for the image.

Bill Paarlberg
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Bill Paarlberg

Bill Paarlberg co-founded The Measurement Standard in 2002 and was its editor until July 2017. He also edits The Measurement Advisor newsletter. He is editor of the award-winning "Measuring the Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Katie Paine, and editor of two other books on measurement by Katie Paine, "Measure What Matters" and "Measuring Public Relationships." Visit Bill Paarlberg's page on LinkedIn.
Bill Paarlberg
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