Television Ad-Skipping, Consumption Complementarities and the Consumer Demand for Advertising

Television Ad-Skipping, Consumption Complementarities and the Consumer Demand for Advertising

Quantitative Marketing and Economics. June
2018, Vol. 16, Issue 2, Pages 111-174

Endogenous consumption of advertising is common. Consumers choose to change channels to avoid TV ads, click away from paid online video ads, or discard direct mail without reading advertised details. As technological advances give firms improved abilities to target individual consumers through various media, it is becoming increasingly important for models to reflect the endogenous nature of ad consumption and to consider the implications that ad choice has for firms’ targeting strategies. With this motivation, we develop an empirical model of consumer demand for advertising in which demand for ads is jointly determined with demand for the advertised products. Building on Becker and Murphy (The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 108(4), 941–964 1993)’s ideas, the model treats advertising as a good over which consumers have utility and obtains demands as the outcome of a joint utility maximization problem. Leveraging new data that links household-level TV ad-viewing with product purchases, we provide empirical evidence that is consistent with the model: ad-skipping is found to be lower when a household has purchased more of the advertised brand, and purchases are higher when more ads have been watched recently, suggesting that advertising and product consumption are jointly determined. Fitting a structural model of joint demand to the data, we evaluate consumer welfare and advertiser profitability in advertising targeting counterfactuals motivated by an “addressable” future of TV. We find that targeting on the predicted ad-skip probability is an attractive strategy, as it indirectly selects consumers that value the product. Reflecting the positive view of advertising in the model, we also find that net consumer welfare may increase in several targeting scenarios. This occurs because under improved targeting, firms shift advertising to those who are likely to value it. At the same time, consumers that do not value the ads end up skipping them, mitigating possible welfare losses. Both forces are relevant to assessing advertising effects in a world with improved targeting and ad-skipping technology.