IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

A Theory of Combative Advertising

  • Yuxin Chen


    (The Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University, New York, New York 10012, and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, Beijing 100738, China)

  • Yogesh V. Joshi


    (The Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742)

  • Jagmohan S. Raju


    (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

  • Z. John Zhang


    (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

In mature markets with competing firms, a common role for advertising is to shift consumer preferences towards the advertiser in a tug-of-war, with no effect on category demand. In this paper, we analyze the effect of such “combative” advertising on market power. We show that, depending on the nature of consumer response, combative advertising can reduce price competition to benefit competing firms. However, it can also lead to a procompetitive outcome where individual firms advertise to increase their own profitability, but collectively become worse off. This is because combative advertising can intensify price competition such that an “advertising war” leads to a “price war.” Similar to price competition, advertising competition can result in a prisoner's dilemma where all competing firms make less profit even when the effect of each firm's advertising is to enhance consumer preferences in its favor. Given such procompetitive effects, we further show that cost of combative advertising could be a blessing in disguise—higher unit cost of advertising resulting in lower equilibrium levels of advertising, leading to higher prices and profits. We conduct a laboratory experiment to investigate how combative advertising by competing brands influences consumer preferences. Our experimental analysis offers strong support for our conclusions.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Marketing Science.

Volume (Year): 28 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (01-02)
Pages: 1-19

in new window

Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:28:y:2009:i:1:p:1-19
Contact details of provider: Postal:
7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 300, Hanover, MD 21076 USA

Phone: +1-443-757-3500
Fax: 443-757-3515
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Gasmi, Farid & Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Vuong, Quang, 1992. "Econometric Analysis of Collusive Behavior in a Soft Drink Market," IDEI Working Papers 16, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  2. George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213.
  3. Frank M. Bass & Norris Bruce & Sumit Majumdar & B. P. S. Murthi, 2007. "Wearout Effects of Different Advertising Themes: A Dynamic Bayesian Model of the Advertising-Sales Relationship," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(2), pages 179-195, 03-04.
  4. Lambin, Jean-Jacques & Naert, Philippe A. & Bultez, Alain, 1975. "Optimal marketing behavior in oligopoly," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 105-128, April.
  5. Nils-Henrik M. von der Fehr & Kristin Stevik, 1998. "Persuasive Advertising and Product Differentiation," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(1), pages 113-126, July.
  6. Gene M. Grossman & Carl Shapiro, 1984. "Informative Advertising with Differentiated Products," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(1), pages 63-81.
  7. Lester G. Telser, 1964. "Advertising and Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72, pages 537.
  8. Anil Kaul & Dick R. Wittink, 1995. "Empirical Generalizations About the Impact of Advertising on Price Sensitivity and Price," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 14(3_supplem), pages G151-G160.
  9. Hoch, Stephen J & Ha, Young-Won, 1986. " Consumer Learning: Advertising and the Ambiguity of Product Experience," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(2), pages 221-33, September.
  10. Vinay Kanetkar & Charles B. Weinberg & Doyle L. Weiss, 1992. "Price Sensitivity and Television Advertising Exposures: Some Empirical Findings," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 11(4), pages 359-371.
  11. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1993. "A Simple Theory of Advertising as a Good or Bad," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(4), pages 941-964.
  12. Jan-Benedict E. M. Steenkamp & Vincent R. Nijs & Dominique M. Hanssens & Marnik G. Dekimpe, 2005. "Competitive Reactions to Advertising and Promotion Attacks," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 24(1), pages 35-54, September.
  13. Meurer, Michael & Stahl, Dale II, 1994. "Informative advertising and product match," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 1-19, March.
  14. Victor Tremblay & Stephen Polasky, 2002. "Advertising with Subjective Horizontal and Vertical Product Differentiation," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 20(3), pages 253-265, May.
  15. Niladri B. Syam & Ranran Ruan & James D. Hess, 2005. "Customized Products: A Competitive Analysis," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 24(4), pages 569-584, February.
  16. Nelson, Phillip J, 1975. "The Economic Consequences of Advertising," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(2), pages 213-41, April.
  17. Bloch, Francis & Manceau, Delphine, 1999. "Persuasive advertising in Hotelling's model of product differentiation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 557-574, May.
  18. Nicholas Kaldor, 1950. "The Economic Aspects of Advertising," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(1), pages 1-27.
  19. Koen Pauwels & Dominique M. Hanssens, 2007. "Performance Regimes and Marketing Policy Shifts," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(3), pages 293-311, 05-06.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:28:y:2009:i:1:p:1-19. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.