Should advertising value equivalency be used as a way to measure PR?'s Mark Scott and Airfoil PR's Jennifer Becker offer opposing views on using advertising value equivalency as a way to measure PR.


Mark Scott, Senior PR manager,
Uses ad value equivalency to share PR successes with senior management

I can remember the shock - even horror - among many colleagues a decade ago when I began using advertising value equivalency as a key metric of PR success.

Ad equivalency cheapened the value PR created, said some. Ad value didn't account for message credibility that earned media brought - credibility not given to messages communicated in the same media via advertising. I had made a deal with the devil. I'm exaggerating on that last reaction - a little. The truth is, I continue to find many PR pros shunning ad value as a metric of PR success.

That's a shame because it is that number that can get a CEO's or CMO's attention, get you the C-level mindshare you need to talk about the other value PR creates, and help you secure resources for PR programs and campaigns.

Most CEOs deal in dollars, cents, and other hard numbers. How much was spent? How much product did we move? Did Web traffic spike? However, because PR budgets are routinely dwarfed by advertising, sales, and search engine marketing budgets, and PR happens in conjunction with or in support of these other efforts, it's frequently impossible to isolate PR's impact on business success metrics.

But when you tell a CEO that you spent $x on PR and created four or five times $x in advertising value equivalency, you've got their attention.

Ad value should never be your only metric of success, though. Key message delivery, total impressions, changed perceptions, and other metrics will help you explain more fully how PR contributes to an organization's success. But some of these metrics may be a little harder to get at and take more time to explain - time a busy CEO or CMO may not be willing to invest at first.

When reporting the impact of PR using ad value, you can assure your executives that the results generated are worth at least as much as that number, and likely much more. Ad value is your headline. It's your exec-utive summary. It's the lede that will get your CEO, CMO, and other executives interested in hearing the rest of the story.


Jennifer Becker, Research director, client solutions group, Airfoil PR
Measures PR success by linking audience response to business objectives

For some, advertising value equivalency is considered to be a means to measure business success and ROI. Ad value is the practice of assigning a dollar equivalent to a PR placement that equates to a similar advertising buy.

The topic of advertising value equivalency normally comes up in discussion for two reasons. The first is, "We've always shown ad value to man-agement. They now expect it." The second is, "We need to justify the budget."

However, using ad value is measurement for the sake of measurement. It often lacks direct correlation to the response of the target audience. We consistently find that it is not a precise measurement of the success of a commu-nications plan.  

First, ad buy negotiations typically result in a different dollar amount for every company and every brand, meaning it is difficult to accurately determine ad value. Even if a dollar amount is identified, it doesn't reveal how many spots were negotiated and how savvy the ad buy was. Furthermore, communications are integrated and it's challenging to truly assess what drives people to make the decisions they do - especially the decisions we'd like them to make.

If the ultimate goal is to discover whether our communications plan is working, linking audience response to the business objective is the best way to act accountably. It justifies the spend as much as a random estimate of dollars that might have been spent using another communications approach. Free tools and in-house analytics have almost made online response measurement turnkey. Furthermore, one method often overlooked is to conduct a survey to find out how an audience received the message.

Loud as it seems, since we're always trying to "break through the clutter," communications is often a quiet discipline. As communicators, it's our responsibility to know how our target audience is responding and reacting to our messages. We want to know, and should be asking, if we have achieved our desired response through measurable means.

PRWeek's View
Though they can be helpful in explaining PR's value to number-hungry executives, ad value equivalencies are an outdated, nebulous measure of PR success and should only be used in very limited circumstances.

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