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The Economic Analysis of Advertising

In: Handbook of Industrial Organization


  • Bagwell, Kyle


This chapter offers a comprehensive survey of the economic analysis of advertising. A first objective is to organize the literature in a manner that clarifies what is known. A second objective is to clarify how this knowledge has been obtained. The chapter begins with a discussion of the key initial writings that are associated with the persuasive, informative and complementary views of advertising. Next, work that characterizes empirical regularities between advertising and other variables is considered. Much of this work is conducted at the inter-industry level but important industry studies are also discussed. The chapter then offers several sections that summarize formal economic theories of advertising. In particular, respective sections are devoted to positive and normative theories of monopoly advertising, theories of price and non-price advertising, theories of advertising and product quality, and theories that explore the potential role for advertising in deterring entry. At this point, the chapter considers the empirical support for the formal economic theories of advertising. A summary is provided of empirical work that evaluates the predictions of recent theories of advertising, including work that specifies and estimates explicitly structural models of firm and consumer conduct. This work is characterized by the use of industry (or brand) and even household-level data. The chapter then considers work on endogenous and exogenous sunk cost industries. At a methodological level, this work is integrative in nature: it develops new theory that delivers a few robust predictions, and it then explores the empirical relevance of these predictions at both inter-industry and industry levels. Finally, the chapter considers new directions and other topics. Here, recent work on advertising and media markets is discussed, and research on behavioral economics and neuroeconomics is also featured. A final section offers some concluding thoughts.

Suggested Citation

  • Bagwell, Kyle, 2007. "The Economic Analysis of Advertising," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: Mark Armstrong & Robert Porter (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1701-1844, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:indchp:3-28

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    industrial organization;

    JEL classification:

    • L0 - Industrial Organization - - General


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