Societal Spillovers of TV Advertising: Social Distancing During a Public Health Crisis
Can TV advertising affect societal outcomes beyond traditional marketing outcomes such as sales and brand awareness? The authors address this question in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic by analyzing daily advertising and mobility data for 2,194 counties across 204 designated market areas in the United States. By employing a border identification strategy that exploits discontinuities across television markets, the authors find a significant positive causal relationship between TV ads from brands containing COVID-19 narratives and people's social distancing behavior, while controlling for government policy interventions (e.g., shelter-in-place, mask mandates). The estimated effects are almost 11 times larger in counties without government policy interventions compared with counties with policy interventions. Notably, while the overall impact of government ads on social distancing behavior is nonsignificant, the effect becomes significantly negative (positive) in the presence (absence) of policy interventions. The results are robust to alternative model specifications, variable operationalizations, and other data considerations. The findings underscore the critical role that spillover effects from brand-sponsored TV ads can play during major public crises, including mitigating the lack of local governments' policy interventions. The findings bear substantive implications for managers and policy makers regarding how advertising strategies may help improve public health outcomes or advance social good.
Journal of Marketing
Ghosh Dastidar, Ayan; Sunder, Sarang; and Shah, Denish, "Societal Spillovers of TV Advertising: Social Distancing During a Public Health Crisis" (2023). School of Management. 193.