Siddhartha Mukherjee: The Cancer of Advertising Value Equivalent

16 Jul,2020

By Siddhartha Mukherjee


Advertising Value Equivalent evaluation of PR Coverage (AVE, in short) continues to thrive even after three decades of innumerable conferences and global advisories shared with our PR Industry. I call it a cancer. However, the majority of this industry probably may not empathise with me. That is because the on-ground reality is that AVE has been revered as the bedrock of PR and Corporate Communications.


I am not sure what this three decades of lost opportunity tells us about our industry. However, one conclusion is very evident. The much-needed ‘PR for PR’ campaign has been a failure…or did it even start, in the first place?


Below are some evaluation parameters:

1. Where did the term AVE come from:The term AVE was conceptualised in the west sometime around mid-twentieth century. Yes, alike many western evils, AVE too came from the western world. And, as always, India copied it, accepted it as a norm without cross-questioning it. However, the real on-ground push in India came from the global FMCG players since they had the advertising and marketing influence.


2. What have we done to remove this Cancer:Except a handful of visionaries who have challenged this, both the upper and downstream of this industry have been the cause & effect of this metric to flourish. CorpComm departments & Agency partners continue to get evaluated based on the unrealistic AVE metric.


3. What does this signal:The PR for PR campaign has been ineffective. Had it been effective, both the PR users and service providers would have woken up to the new dawn to realization long ago. This education campaign needs thorough understanding of what PR actually stands for and how to do PR of that understanding. In both, there have been innumerable flaws.


4. What are some of the flaws:

a) Lacks Internal Clarity: If one were to undertake a survey of respondents across PR Agencies, CorpComm and CXOs, we will see not so surprising disparity in the definition of Public Relations. I have personally witnessed lack of understanding and disparity amongst employees (across hierarchies) in some of the biggest PR Agencies. It is appalling! Both Industry Captains & Industry bodies have not done the required internal communication to educate what PR should stands for.


b) Barking up the wrong tree: The demand for AVE comes from the CXOs desks – CMOs primarily. If the industry was actually serious, the target audience of PR for PR Campaign should have been the CXOs! No education or orientation programme has been created for this desk to change its demand to a more scientific outcome-based metric.


5. What does this need:

It needs Intent, Authority, Delegation and Target Setting. So far, we have been lacking on all the four parameters. However, going forward, all these four will be needed to eradicate AVE. Intent needs to come from Industry bodies, delegation to dedicated desk with required knowledge & authority and finally, focused towards the source of AVE – the CXOs.


AVE is killing the ethos of Public Relations and Corporate Communications Industry. It is a silent killer. It is this vice that is not letting our industry stand up to the onslaught of Paid Media and Marketing thought process. It is time to start the eradication process. Target audience sets – CXOs on one side and education institutes on the other!



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