It all started earlier this month when AMEC announced a new global initiative to eradicate Advertising Value Equivalent, or AVEs.

This is generally viewed as being A Very Good Thing. AVEs are so reprehensible, they don’t even have an entry on Wikipedia.

Then the CIPR announced it would be issuing a new standard in the autumn. Or guidelines, which is a different thing (I’m just going on what the CIPR’s web site says) but the upshot was that CIPR members may be liable to disciplinary action under the Code of Conduct if found to be using AVEs after the standard / policy / guidelines is/are introduced in late 2018.

Then PR Week got involved, claiming that a row had broken out with former President Stephen Waddington about the plan, and Wadds wrote a piece explaining what his view really was. I liked his ‘carrot and stick’ title as I’d thought something similar – but here is where he and I differ.

Wadds says we need a bit more carrot and less stick, at least for a while longer. I disagree. We’ve had plenty of carrot over years, not just in the banishment of AVEs from PRide and Excellence Award entries. The Chartered Institute has made clear – as have the PRCA and others, let’s be fair – that AVEs are an outmoded way of measuring how successful your campaigns are against the agreed objectives. PR Week had a similar discussion back in 2009, and the Institute for Public Relations back in 2003 (pdf).

RIME is reason

If you’re looking for a good list of alternatives, start with “30 alternative public relations metrics to AVE” on Wadds’s blog. Research, insight, measurement & evaluation are the way forward. Go read the Barcelona Principles.

So why are AVEs still in use? Because “clients ask for them”. Oh, really?

If you got a plumber or electrician in, you wouldn’t tell them what pipework or cable to use. If you needed the services of a lawyer, you wouldn’t tell them which case law to use. So why let a client tell you how to do your job?

You are the public relations practitioner, you tell the client how PR works, not the other way around. Show them the error of their ways, and if they refuse to learn – walk away. Get different clients. Join an agency that knows what it’s doing. I know for some that’s easier said than done (and as a currently unemployed person I fully realise that principles don’t pay the rent).

But we teach new practitioners on CIPR-approved degree and other courses that AVEs are bad. It’s no use at all if we then sit back and let them work at agencies or in-house teams that acquiesce or offer them.

We’ve gone as far as we can with the carrot approach. Time to put the stick about.