After spending 3 days in Berlin talking about measurement, I’m ready to try gardening for the rest of my life. Or maybe politics, at least with gardening and politics things actually change. Don’t get me wrong, I was as delighted as the next person by the fact that 8% more people measure today than they did 5 years ago. But it was the lack of movement in HOW people measured that really got to me. In essence, despite the advances in Dashboard, survey research, and social networking analysis, most PR people are measuring in 2009 with tools that I rejected in 1987 when I started Delahaye, my first measurement company.
When David Rockland asked the 150 or so people how many people used AVE (Ad Value Equivalents) almost everyone raised his/her hand. And while a large number of them also admitted not being exactly proud of doing so, the universal assessment was that “they had no choice.” They had to deliver what the client wants. And, I asked, if the client wanted heroin or nuclear weaponry or child porn would they also deliver. Sadly, the consensus was yes. The proliferation of AVEs is driven by market demand.
Rockland went on to spend another hour or so discussing a metric that IMHO has no place in today’s measurement discussion. But obviously I was a minority (except, of course on Twitter, where there was a general consensus of WTF – why was so much time being devoted to this topic. )But that’s because people on Twitter tend to be aficionados of social media where AVE isn’t even an option.
I obviously have a radically different outlook than most of my profession. But somehow, I’ve managed to grow two companies, hang on to over 4000 twitter followers, generate over 2000 subscribers to our newsletters, and happily service 100s of clients that don’t seem to mind me sticking to my principles. So I for one will continue to eschew AVE and welcome any and all fellow supporters into my club.
In fact, the idealist in me wish for a “Berlin Protocol” in which we all agreed to not just promote measurement, but to promote the “right” way of measuring based on outcomes not outputs and based on true science not “assessment by voodoo economics.”
As a side note, it does make my life easier. As you might imagine, I am frequently asked to judge PR award programs, and my stance makes it for far easier judging. I routinely toss out any entry that even comes within the discussion of AVEs, so as a result I have far fewer entries to judge.
But I digress. At the Amec there were numerous fascinating and elucidating presentations on all aspects of PR measurement and beautifully summed up by Nanette Bresson. But when it came down to the nitty gritty, in essence, the vast majority of vendors in the room, were still counting hits (How Idiots Track Success) and AVEs. They were all basing decisions on data that was either patently false or never existed. Don Wright and David Michaelson discussed their seminal research that proved conclusively that multipliers had no basis in reality, but that doesn’t mean anyone in that room in Berlin has plans to abandon them anytime soon.
So here’s a question and a proposition. First the question: If I drop out of sight for a year, tend my garden, speak no more, and let the industry get on with its day to day issues, and assuming I returned to return to the business in June of 2010, would anything have changed?
And here’s the proposition: Lets all agree to never again deliver an AVE number, or any other number we don’t believe in. Do you really think our business would collapse? Would clients really leave measurement in droves? . Or would they be forced to actually look at true business outcomes. And if we don’t do this, don’t we lose the business to management consultants anyway?