EDITORIAL: Creativity up but evaluation is hit

The quality of entries at the PRWeek Awards on Wednesday night amply illustrated this year, more than most, that adverse conditions can often bring out the best in people and companies.

A slowing economy has produced a plethora of problems for many in the sector: smaller budgets, fewer staff and shrinking resources have meant both in-house departments and consultancies have had to dig deeper into their creative reserves to produce award-winning work.

But this has been the spur that raised the bar across virtually every category. The quality of strategic thinking was widely described as 'better' this year than in previous years.

While there were slightly fewer entries than the average 700 in previous years, this was largely due to the consolidation of several categories - fewer categories were made available this year in an effort to better represent the shape of the PR industry.

But like the curate's egg, while strategic thinking has improved, evaluation has generally suffered.

For the first time since PRWeek took a stance against Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) as a measure of PR effectiveness some years ago, the judges were forced to virtually abandon PRWeek's anti-AVE policy due to the sheer volume of entries using them as a primary evaluation tool.

This crude method of measurement has emerged as the prevalent evaluation methodology - driven by cash-strapped and cynical clients - and simultaneously marking a backward step in the research and evaluation debate.

So while the downturn has inspired creativity in the industry, it has done little to encourage investment in proving its value.

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