My Wish List for Santa

Shankhassick Farm, Durham, New Hampshire

Dear Santa,

First of all, I trust you’ve noticed that I haven’t pouted all year. And I only shouted that one time. But that was when I was evaluating award entries and someone used AVEs as an indicator of success. I’ve managed to cut down on crying by at least 50%. Okay, it’s mostly ’cuz I stopped watching sad movies on airplanes, but, not to put too fine a point on it, when you said “better not cry” you weren’t specific about the cause of the tears.

So I’m hoping you’ll see that this year I really have been good for goodness sake, and you’ll grant a few of my simple requests.

I know everyone else out there is asking for Baby Yodas, an end to climate change, and peace on Earth. So I thought I make it easy for you and admit that I really don’t need a Baby Yoda. Although I would really like peace on Earth. And if you could fix the planet that would be really great, too.

So, I’m just asking for a few simple measurement tools that would make the lives of all of us just a little bit easier as we slave away in our measurement workshops. Here’s my list:

1. A Rhumba to clean data

The world desperately needs a device that can go in and automatically clean up data. I know that everyone has filters and “not” terms, but somehow, invariably, ads, press releases, click bait, and references to “follow us on Facebook” keep showing up in news feeds for my clients. No wonder one of the biggest concerns PR folks express when I ask them about measurement is “Accuracy of my data.” I get it: in order to be profitable all those media monitoring platforms have to rely on automation to collect this stuff. Few can afford the luxury of human review of every client’s news feed. So either I or my clients end up having to clean up the messy data. So please, Santa, can you get your elves to put together a Rhumba to clean up data for us?

2. “Alexa: Run these correlations!”

Santa, I have a feeling you have great contacts at Amazon and Google. So how about a system with which I can just say, “Take all the social media mentions of my client, filter out all the ones that they generated, and run a correlation against these goal conversions.” And then magically Alexa would match up the dates and the data and tell me which aspects of an article are driving those conversions. I know that’s pretty much what Proof Analytics does, but that’s the equivalent of using SpaceX to get to the grocery store.

3. A boycott of award ceremonies that accept AVEs as a criteria for success

Several decades ago, when I was honored with an Athena Award, I was told that the idea behind the program was that a society becomes what it honors. Well, then, as long as our PR community continues to honor ad value equivalents in its award programs it will continue to use AVEs and other bogus metrics. So Santa, can you please put coal in the stockings of the people behind those programs, and then get behind a boycott of those ceremonies? Because, to my utter dismay, nearly a decade after the original Barcelona Principles were adopted, and two decades after the Institute for PR Measurement Commission wrote to award chairs asking them to eliminate AVE from their criteria, AVEs are still an acceptable measure of results in some award programs.

4. A troll farm vaccine

Santa, I’m sure you heard how a very naughty PR firm hired a Polish troll farm to influence law makers to award a contract to a consortium of contractors that included Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo. So I’m equally sure you’re putting coal in the stockings of that evil PR team. While you’re there, can you figure out a way to vaccinate my clients against future troll attacks?

The problem is that with everyone tracking social media alongside the rest of their earned media the volumes get to be so huge that troll attacks go unnoticed. They don’t look like spam because it’s human trolls, not bots, that plant the stories. Even those systems that tout their spam filters don’t flag the fake stuff. So please Santa, we need your help here, you’re the only one with the global reach to pull it off.

5. An anti-AVE troll farm

We may want to eliminate trolls, but in the meantime, we know that they are effective at promoting specific agendas. So I have an agenda I’d like them to attack: the scourge of AVEs. Let’s use trolls and bots to send targeted messages to all those senior marketing and comms execs who still demand AVEs to convince them that they are total BS.

6. A suitable replacement for “reach.”

Santa, I’m sure you’ve seen it. Whether it’s the agency for a niche company in a niche field claiming that they reached 10 billion people of the course of a year, or some brand that gloats over reaching everyone on the planet ten times over, you can tell BS when you see it. But, boy, do those marketers love their big numbers. It was bad enough when we were just dealing with inflated circulation figures for traditional media. Then people and vendors went digital and suddenly that tiny mention on page 43 of The New York Times blew up into reaching everyone who has ever visited Never mind the ridiculous numbers claimed by social media platforms.

So Santa could you put your elves on coming up with an acceptable alternative? Something that reflects: 1. the actual numbers of stakeholders that, 2. actually care about a subject, and 3. actually see a particular piece of news.

Thank you Santa,


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