Editorial: And herein lies the AVE problem

A high profile slot on the Money Programme featuring Echo chief executive Sandra MacLeod may well have raised a few eyebrows in the world of PR and research and evaluation this week. Here we have the former chair of the Association of Media Evaluation Companies quoting the dreaded advertising value equivalent, with reference to the disastrous publicity surrounding the Millennium Dome.

A high profile slot on the Money Programme featuring Echo chief

executive Sandra MacLeod may well have raised a few eyebrows in the

world of PR and research and evaluation this week. Here we have the

former chair of the Association of Media Evaluation Companies quoting

the dreaded advertising value equivalent, with reference to the

disastrous publicity surrounding the Millennium Dome.



Undoubtedly the Dome will go down as one of the PR fiascos of the 21st

century. And it is hardly surprising that the media should attempt to

put a figure on the reams of poor press it has generated. And, judging

by the persistence of clients’ attachments to AVEs it should come as no

surprise that Echo was only one of a number of leading evaluation

companies and PR agencies approached by the BBC with this commission,

all of whom suggested advertising value equivalents.



Unfortunately, behind the headlining-grabbing calculation of pounds 2

million of negative coverage for the Dome, there was a sophisticated

piece of research into the main themes and impact on sponsors which,

inevitably, there was not time to air on Sunday’s programme.



This is the danger with AVEs. They create an easily accessible equation

which, when included in research, is bound to grab attention, often to

the exclusion of more detailed and revealing analysis. Nowhere is this

more true than in the sponsorship arena.



However, despite a continuing client adherence to AVEs, the industry

must continue to resist their use. The comparison they make is erroneous

and superficial and does not provide the kind of information required

for an organisation to formulate a proactive communications

programme.



Admittedly, the Money Programme is one of the first to have ever turned

media evaluation into headline news, but the coverage is unlikely to aid

the continuing drive to encourage PR practitioners to make proper use of

research and evaluation.



There has always been a lurking fear among those in the PR industry

that, while proof of a campaign’s success could justify budgets,

tangible proof of its failure could lead to the loss of clients and

jobs. Jennie Page’s departure from the Dome, which coincided with the

release of research into the impact of negative publicity, will do

little to reverse this misconception.



The Proof Campaign and the development of the Research and Evaluation

Toolkit, in which Echo played no small part, was designed to ram home

the message that research and evaluation is intended as a planning tool

designed to increase PR’s effectiveness and credibility, not to create a

rod for the backs of PROs.



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