You probably didn’t feel it, but on Friday October 16, 2009 there was a shifting of the tectonic plates in Portsmouth, NH. No, it wasn’t recorded by the USGS, but if you’re in the PR world, you would have felt it. That was the day that the IPR Measurement Commission voted definitively -- 19 to 2 -- to “reject AVEs (ad value equivalency) , the concept and the practice. “ At the time, I tweeted that I could now die happy because for so long I’ve said that my mission is to get to have “she killed the AVE” written on my tombstone.
For those agencies, clients and providers out there that are now left in limbo, making money off of a practice that has now been rejected by leading experts in both Canada and the US, I can only say: "move on."
The Canadians did. They went thru this debate five years ago, when they rejected AVEs and settled on the MRP Standard . Today, when I speak in Canada, I am constantly amazed by the intelligence and sophistication of my audience and the questions they ask. They don’t bother with questions about “what’s the AVE of a blog” but rather challenge me with questions about correlations to outcomes.
If anything, this vote comes at a perfect time. PRSA is pushing a set of guidelines that specifically address PR’s contribution to the bottom line – whether in terms of sales, revenue, cost savings or stock price. Check it out.
At the same time, with the rise of social media, AVEs have little meaning when the value of the most traditional media is dropping daily, and the power of individual blogs, many of which don’ t accept advertising, is growing exponentially.
The good news is that every week, a new and better way of demonstrating contribution to your organizations bottom line presents itself. Sodexo measures its Twitter success via $300K in recuirtment cost savings. Non-profits are correlating success in fund raising to social media programs. Southwest has seen such success from its social media efforts that it can quintuple the size of its department.
So why do clipping firms and PR agencies have such a hard time weaning themselves from this outmoded metric? Like any bad habit – heroin, porn – pick your analogy -- it sometimes takes tough love to go cold turkey. With luck that’s what the IPR vote will accomplish.
So rather than seeing this as an earthquake. I prefer to see the vote as PR's emancipation proclamation. As of Friday October 16, 2009, we are free from the shackles of a slavish devotion to silly numbers, false metrics, and thinking that outputs are all we do.
We can now focus on those things that really matter. Quantifying our real contribution to organizational success.