Has marketing forgotten what it learnt twenty years ago? In the 1990s I ran a PR network in Europe. Agencies looked a lot at measurement techniques for the media coverage they were achieving on behalf of their clients. For a short while the industry used an EAV (Equivalent Advertising Value) metric. Some clients liked it but it was always a house built on sand. What was the point of knowing that a particular press clipping on page 87 of a monthly magazine would have cost $190 were someone to have advertised in that spot? The client wasn’t advertising in that spot (for no doubt good reason), the magazine didn’t take ads on that page (so the EAV was an arbitrary value anyway), and the coverage was not exclusively focused on the client (as any ad would have been), so the comparison was impractical from every view. Clients soon saw through it and agencies dropped the metric. Why raise a claim that could be so casually, and easily, shot down. This issue sprang to mind when I was recently reviewing what’s being called ‘blog outreach software’.
I couldn’t be more critical of the current generation of blog outreach software. It’s nothing more than extremely low-end advertising. The bloggers being courted by these software providers are only interested because of the payments they’ll receive when mentioning particular products or services. If the bloggers have any current influence, and there’s no proof they have, that will be immediately lost once they start product placing within their posts. But the thing that most struck me when looking at this software were the metrics they were using to measure the validity of each blogger. ‘Potential impressions’ and ‘estimated impressions value’! Two entirely hypothetical metrics. Have people learn’t nothing in twenty years?
I well remember a marketing director in the 1990s tell a large group of employees that the ultra-expensive Formula 1 sponsorship deal he’d just signed (the firm’s logo was on a car’s wing mirrors) had a potential TV viewership of hundreds of millions of people. He justified the spend by multiplying the likely TV viewing numbers by the length in minutes of each televised race to arrive at that number. As if the tiny wing mirror logo (on two of the twenty cars) would be visible for even 1/100th of each broadcast! In reality it was more like 1/1000th.
So for blogger outreach, why measure each blogger by ‘potential impressions’ and ‘estimated impressions value’? Why is this any more credible in the era of bloggers than it was in the far more stable, and less busy, era of print titles? I look at the (mostly) agencies supposedly using this software and I wonder what story they’re telling their clients.