COMMENT: PLATFORM; Time for the AVEs to become the AVE nots

PR is right to try to create its own evaluation standard as long as it lets market forces shape the end result, says Mark Westaby

PR is right to try to create its own evaluation standard as long as it

lets market forces shape the end result, says Mark Westaby

Quentin Bell, Raymond Wilson and Peter Crowe should be applauded by the

PR industry for their initiative to develop and gain acceptance for a

standard form of media evaluation unit. There are a number of reasons

why this is important for the PR industry.

Earlier this year my company, Metrica, conducted research among PRCA

member consultancies, which represent a broad cross-section of the

industry, to determine the issues surrounding a media evaluation


This revealed a number of key points. The importance of media evaluation

was confirmed, yet considerable confusion among PR professionals was

identified, with many still seeing evaluation as a black art. Most

believed that some form of media evaluation standard is required and

many continue to use the dreaded AVE (advertising value equivalent).

The media evaluation standard unit proposed by Quentin and his

colleagues would not be a panacea to these issues. Nor would it replace

existing services provided by specialist media evaluation companies such

as my own. Rather, it would form a common foundation on which to build

these services and still leave the user free to choose the best added

value solution to meet their own particular needs.

Take AVEs for instance; one of the main reasons that these have

persisted for so long is that they provide a sample form of measurement

unit, which everybody can associate with and understand - money.

Unfortunately, the AVE is fatally flawed, for reasons that have been

covered in great detail elsewhere and on which I do not intend to dwell

here. Suffice to say that I am appalled by the number of people who

continue to use AVEs, including many PR consultancies which frankly

should know better. It should also be remembered that new rules for

entry to the PRCA will include proven expertise in measurement and

planning and the AVE must have no part to play in this qualification.

The new evaluation standard unit would be simple to use and ready to

understand and provide a viable and far superior alternative.

Perhaps most importantly, the standard unit is being driven by the PR

industry itself, representing the ultimate users, with involvement from

media evaluation specialists. I would urge those who believe that we

need a broader industry standard, developed by a committee of experts,

to look at other industries which are already a long way down this

difficult path and have learnt some painful reality.

The information technology sector is a prime example. While successful

in implementing standards in niche areas, the world of ‘open’ computer

systems is now being driven by market forces from the end user rather

than standards derived from the computer manufacturers themselves. This

has left many suppliers in this sector, which are also some of the

world’s largest organisations, as ‘proprietary dinosaurs’, floundering

to adapt to the needs of a rapidly changing marketplace. While the PR

industry is clearly different in many ways from the world of IT, there

are salutary lessons to be gained from this experience.

PR market forces are moving towards a standard media evaluation unit and

the industry ignores this at its peril. I say good luck to Quentin Bell

and his supporters, who can count me among their number.

Mark Westaby is joint managing director of media evaluation specialist


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