New metric, same old flaws: AVE mutates into EMV

New metric, same old flaws: AVE mutates into EMV

AVE has mutated into a new form of measurement for the digital and social age called EMV. Neither has any place in modern practice.


Earned Media Value (EMV), a modern version of Advertising Equivalent Value (AVE), is being promoted by tool vendors, media and public relations agencies as a simple means to measure and benchmark campaigns.

AVE metrics are determined by calculating the equivalent advertising cost for earned content. An arbitrary multiplier is applied on the basis that editorial is more valuable than advertising. It’s nonsense.

Paid, Earned, Social and Earned (PESO)

EMV has arisen as media relations has developed into influencer relations, as a means of benchmarking influencer relations activity across paid and earned media. You can trace its roots via a viral-like mutation back to AVE.

EMV is calculated by multiplying the reach of a piece of earned or social media content by the cost per so-called impression. A further multiplier is added to the calculation based on the likelihood of conversion.

Philip Sheldrake, author of The Business of Influence, takes a dim view.

“It is an idiotic response that brings ridicule to the public relations and marketing professions.”

EMV is attractive because it enables influencer relations activity to be aligned with other forms of paid digital marketing and provides a proxy for return on investment. It is applied indiscriminately to earned media and social media platforms and assumes that the goal of a campaign is always a sales conversion.

Simple answer, wrong answer

Scott Guthrie, a management consultant who specialises in social media marketing suggests that EMV has taken root because it provides a simple answer to a complex problem.

“EMV’s offer clients big numbers. They give the impression of good value for money. But they fail to provide clients with any measure of whether the campaign is actually working.”

Paid and earned marketing or public relations campaigns cannot be consolidated into a single number. Instead practitioners should seek to link the investment in marketing or public relations activity to the outcomes achieved.

Defining a measurement framework for a campaign is hard. People use AVE and EMV because they’re easy. But they’re also wrong.

Activity, outputs and outcomes

The objectives of a campaign should be tied as closely as possible to organisational objectives.

Just as no two organisations are the same, no two objectives can be the same, and no measurement frameworks for a campaign will be the same.

The Association for Evaluation of Measurement and Communication (AMEC) has set out a robust methodology for planning and measurement a campaign.

Every conversation about measurement within my own firm Ketchum starts with AMEC's Integrated Evaluation Framework.

There can be no excuses. The framework is available to download for free.

AMEC’s best practice guidance says that when you’re planning a paid or earned campaign you should be able to define the outputs of your activity and map these again intermediary and organisational outcomes.

There will be challenges in decoupling the contribution of marketing and public relations activity from other activities but it is achievable.

My tip would be to focus on your audience or publics and not on the media.

You need to understand the relationship between intermediary outcomes and organisational outcomes, and track both as part of your campaign. This blog post sets out 30 different metrics.

The closer that you can tie the value you deliver to an organisation to the objectives of the organisation, the more you’ll be valued.

You certainly won’t be valued if you use AVE or EMV.

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