COMMENT: EDITORIAL; Talk sense, not funny money

The news that two thirds of PRCA members support calls for a media evaluation standard is an encouraging sign for the campaign launched at last month’s Hard Commercial Edge of PR conference.

The news that two thirds of PRCA members support calls for a media

evaluation standard is an encouraging sign for the campaign launched at

last month’s Hard Commercial Edge of PR conference.



The term ‘standard’ is somewhat misleading, however. What the current

proposal recommends is not a prescriptive blueprint for media analysis,

which is already handled in a variety of sophisticated and illuminating

ways by expert evaluators. Instead it proposes a basic unit of

measurement which registers the proportion of the target audience

exposed to coverage in particular media.



Such a unit would complement rather than subvert existing evaluation

work, which will be further promoted in the second phase of the campaign

by issuing best practice guidelines on evaluation.



If adopted by the PR profession this proposal may also help to cure the

worrying addiction that 68 per cent of PRCA members, according to the

Metrica survey, apparently have to Advertising Value Equivalents.



AVEs are really useful if you ever need a spurious figure for how much

editorial space would have cost to buy if it were available - which it

isn’t. But sadly they tell you nothing about whether any of it reached

your target audience. All they tell you is how much money you might have

spent on buying editorial space. Except that you can’t buy it. And there

is no ratecard for it.



Worst of all it is a tool which can all too easily be employed by PR

people to justify their existence, without having to prove whether their

work was actually effective.



It’s a bit like the tale of the tramp who comes away from staring

morosely into a Rolls-Royce showroom with a beatific smile plastered

across his face. When asked the reason for his change in temperament he

replies that he has made himself rich, having just saved himself pounds

100,000 by not buying a Roller. He cheerfully adds that he is on his way

to the estate agents to save himself a further pounds 500,000 by not

buying a very big house in the country.



In the same way, Advertising Value Equivalents say: ‘Look at how much

money we are saving you, which you don’t have, and which you never

intended spending on this non-existent product.’ But did the PR strategy

actually work? Er..



We can do better than that. Any clients seeing Advertising Value

Equivalents on the bottom of an agency report should throw it back at

them. Any clients asking for them should be gently taken to one side and

made to see sense.



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