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Deceptive Advertising with Rational Buyers

Author

Listed:
  • Salvatore Piccolo

    (Department of Management, Economics and Quantitative Methods, University of Bergamo, 24126 Bergamo, Italy)

  • Piero Tedeschi

    (Department of Economics and Finance, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 20123 Milan, Italy)

  • Giovanni Ursino

    (Department of Economics and Finance, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 20123 Milan, Italy)

Abstract

We study a simple game in which two sellers supply goods whose quality cannot be assessed by consumers even after consumption but can be verified with some probability by a public authority. Sellers may induce a prospective buyer into a bad purchase through comparative deceptive advertising. The central contribution of this paper is the characterization of a class of pooling equilibria in which low-quality sellers deceive a buyer who is Bayes-rational and makes a purchase decision on the basis of the available information. The analysis of these equilibria suggests that high-quality firms should pursue more intensive advertising campaigns than their low-quality competitors. Surprisingly, we find conditions under which sellers’ expected profit is higher in pooling equilibria than in the separating equilibrium in which quality is reflected by prices and there is no need to waste resources in advertising. Hence, we show that there are plausible cases in which firms should be ex ante willing to tolerate some degree of deceptive advertising by low-quality competitors. In addition, although in these equilibria the buyer purchases low-quality goods with positive probability, the expected utility can be higher than in a separating equilibrium in which the buyer purchases the high-quality good for sure. In this sense, the model also offers an argument in favor of a lenient regulatory approach to deceptive advertising.

Suggested Citation

  • Salvatore Piccolo & Piero Tedeschi & Giovanni Ursino, 2018. "Deceptive Advertising with Rational Buyers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 64(3), pages 1291-1310, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:64:y:2018:i:3:p:1291-1310
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2016.2665
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    Cited by:

    1. Salvatore Piccolo & Piero Tedeschi & Giovanni Ursino, 2018. "Deceptive Advertising with Rational Buyers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 64(3), pages 1291-1310, March.
    2. Salvatore Piccolo & Aldo Pignataro, 2016. "Consumer Loss Aversion, Product Experimentation and Implicit Collusion," CSEF Working Papers 457, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    3. Serafin Grundl & You Suk Kim, 2019. "Consumer mistakes and advertising: The case of mortgage refinancing," Quantitative Marketing and Economics (QME), Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 161-213, June.
    4. Piccolo, Salvatore & Pignataro, Aldo, 2018. "Consumer loss aversion, product experimentation and tacit collusion," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 49-77.
    5. Zhang, Qiao & Tang, Wansheng & Zaccour, Georges & Zhang, Jianxiong, 2019. "Should a manufacturer give up pricing power in a vertical information-sharing channel?," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 276(3), pages 910-928.
    6. Aldo Pignataro, 2019. "The effects of loss aversion on deceptive advertising policies," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 87(4), pages 451-472, November.
    7. Matthew Jones & Bruce Kobayashi & Jason O’Connor, 2018. "Economics at the FTC: Non-price Merger Effects and Deceptive Automobile Ads," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 53(4), pages 593-614, December.
    8. Salvatore Piccolo & Piero Tedeschi & Giovanni Ursino, 2015. "How limiting deceptive practices harms consumers," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 46(3), pages 611-624, September.
    9. Chen Jin & Luyi Yang & Kartik Hosanagar, 2019. "To Brush or Not to Brush: Product Rankings, Customer Search, and Fake Orders," Working Papers 19-02, NET Institute.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    asymmetric information; Bayesian consumers; deception; misleading advertising; signaling;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • L4 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies

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