Reasons for and against AVE.
AVE, advertising value equivalent, has been used as a PR measuring tool for as long as the oldest people in PR have been doing PR. Think faxing and physically posting out press releases. Basically how it works is you work out how much your piece of coverage is worth, WAS IT an advertising feature. For example, if a full page advert in OK magazine cost your brand £20 000, and your PR skills and contacts managed to get your brand half a page of editorial coverage for free, this would technically be worth £10 000. But because editorial recommendation has much more of a direct affect on readers ie people know when they are reading an advert, your coverage has much more of an impact and leads to more sales, which is usually the goal of the PR plan. In AVE this original advert percetage cost is multiplied by another figure, which differs depending on which publication it is and is usually based on a circulation figure (are you still with me?), some PR agencies multiply the circulation/readership by 3 some by 4 some by 5 – based theoretically on how many people will read and be influenced from your piece of coverage in each issue of the publication. Theoretically.
AVE is valuable for some brands where the variables are all the same ie they have been historically using the same agency who have been using the same AVE equation for many years and the brand’s marketing department can use the figures to see, theoretically, how the PR coverage has differed year on year. It is also valuable to show new brands just how many eyes have, theoretically, seen and been influenced by the press coverage and how wise their investment was in PR compared to advertising (they are getting much more impact for a fraction of the price, which is true), where everything is much more black and white.
In actual fact, PR is the greyest of all below the line activity, and no one would now suggest that AVE represents the realistic cost of a press cutting, what’s more, with the dominance of digital and social where impacts and reach are not only accessible to PRs, but accessible to all (DailyMail online unique monthly views in excess of 219,390,528!!) . How does AVE work with these figures, when you know how many eyes are on the page? The technology is usurping the AVE equation which has allowed PRs to justify their worth for decades. There are also the other variables: inclusion of links to websites, positive v negative press coverage, a solo piece or part of a gift guide? How can it be quantified? what’s more, while the agency is trying to frantically trying to merge new technology with old maths what are they not doing with your time?…..talking to the press about your brand.
In our experience, the brand knows best – they know their messages inside out, they have been there with you when you discussed target media, they can see a beautiful piece of print coverage and compare it with the sales surge when their products are in the Guardian Christmas Gift Guide and appreciate the value of both, and with the help of the PR agency sending them the circulation figures they will trust the agency with their messages and products to get the best results to create the actions they want via the media.