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What's Advertising Content Worth? Evidence from a Consumer Credit Marketing Field Experiment

Author

Listed:
  • Marianne Bertrand
  • Dean Karlan
  • Sendhil Mullainathan
  • Eldar Shafir
  • Jonathan Zinman

Abstract

Firms spend billions of dollars developing advertising content, yet there is little field evidence on how much or how it affects demand. We analyze a direct mail field experiment in South Africa implemented by a consumer lender that randomized advertising content, loan price, and loan offer deadlines simultaneously. We find that advertising content significantly affects demand. Although it was difficult to predict ex ante which specific advertising features would matter most in this context, the features that do matter have large effects. Showing fewer example loans, not suggesting a particular use for the loan, or including a photo of an attractive woman increases loan demand by about as much as a 25% reduction in the interest rate. The evidence also suggests that advertising content persuades by appealing "peripherally" to intuition rather than reason. Although the advertising content effects point to an important role for persuasion and related psychology, our deadline results do not support the psychological prediction that shorter deadlines may help overcome time-management problems; instead, demand strongly increases with longer deadlines.

Suggested Citation

  • Marianne Bertrand & Dean Karlan & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2010. "What's Advertising Content Worth? Evidence from a Consumer Credit Marketing Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 263-306.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:125:y:2010:i:1:p:263-306.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/qjec.2010.125.1.263
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    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing
    • M37 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Advertising
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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