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Katie's point is absolutely the right one here and I'm afraid using the defense that AVE is well understood by the C-suite is simply not acceptable in my view. The challenge is to: 1. Demonstrate tangible evidence of outcomes (as opposed to pure outputs), and; 2. Push back against AVE and make a strong case to educate the C-suite about precisely why it's a dumbass measure. As evidence, I present Exhibit A: I joined a large agency many years ago and inherited the account for a very, very big and well-known global brand, right at the point where the agency was about to deliver their annual results report. The entire account team were busy congratulating themselves on their "stellar" results for the past year as they were able to point to >40% increase in ink and AVE numbers that were off the charts. A few minutes of deeper digging showed that three quarters of the coverage they'd "earned" (*cough cough*) was directly due to a major corporate acquisition that had been rife with controversy. The client's own sales and market share numbers clearly showed that they had suffered a significant performance drop in the same period. As Katie so succinctly puts it: "there is no inherent value in ink". In this case, measuring the ink volume alone and pairing it with a glowing AVE score presented a case that was not only misleading it would actually have made the agency look utterly stupid to any client contact with half a brain. We ended up using this situation as a way to convince the client that the way they'd traditionally measured their agency's performance was wrong and overturned the entire basis of their metrics. Taking insights from the real meat of the results report, we were able to build a much smarter plan for the year ahead and ended up with a set of much more meaningful results. AVE is simplistic, wrong-headed and can be completely misleading. Just because clients understand and/or ask for it doesn't mean we should ever settle for measuring our efforts by such a flawed metric. We owe it to our clients to offer smarter counsel than that.
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Jul 13, 2010