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Economic Factors Underlying the Unbundling of Advertising Agency Services

  • Mohammad Arzaghi
  • Ernst Berndt
  • James Davis
  • Alvin Silk

This paper addresses a longstanding puzzle involving the unbundling of services that has occurred over more than two decades in the U.S. advertising agency industry: How can the shift from the bundling to the unbundling of services be explained and what accounts for the slow pace of change? Using a cost-based theoretical framework of bundling due to Evans and Salinger (2005, 2008), we develop a simple model of an advertising agency’s decision to unbundle its services as a tradeoff between the fixed cost to the advertiser of establishing and maintaining a relationship with an advertising agency and pecuniary economies of scale available in providing media services. The results from an econometric analysis of cross-sectional and pooled data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau for quinquenial censuses conducted between 1982 and 2002 support the key predictions of the model. We find that advertising agency establishments are more likely to unbundle if they are large and diversified in their service offerings and are less likely to do so with increasing age and greater geographical scope. We also find a strong trend toward unbundling over time, a result that is partially explained by increases in media prices over time.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2009/CES-WP-09-15.pdf
File Function: First version, 2009
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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 09-15.

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Length: 62 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:09-15
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  1. Silk, Alvin J & Berndt, Ernst R, 1994. "Costs, Institutional Mobility Barriers, and Market Structure: Advertising Agencies as Multiproduct Firms," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(3), pages 437-80, Fall.
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  8. Schmalensee, Richard, 1984. "Gaussian Demand and Commodity Bundling," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages S211-30, January.
  9. Ron S Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2002. "The Longitudinal Business Database," Working Papers 02-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  10. Dennis W. Carlton & Michael Waldman, 1998. "The Strategic Use Of Tying To Preserve And Create Market Power In Evolving Industries," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 145, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  11. Bagwell, Kyle, 2007. "The Economic Analysis of Advertising," Handbook of Industrial Organization, Elsevier.
  12. Alvin J. Silk & Ernst R. Berndt, 1993. "Scale and Scope Effects on Advertising Agency Costs," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(1), pages 53-72.
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  14. Bresnahan, Timothy F., 1982. "The oligopoly solution concept is identified," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 10(1-2), pages 87-92.
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  16. Charles King & Alvin J. Silk & Niels Ketelhöhn, 2003. "Knowledge Spillovers and Growth in the Disagglomeration of the Us Advertising-Agency Industry," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(3), pages 327-362, 09.
  17. Adams, William James & Yellen, Janet L, 1976. "Commodity Bundling and the Burden of Monopoly," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 475-98, August.
  18. Salinger, Michael A, 1995. "A Graphical Analysis of Bundling," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 68(1), pages 85-98, January.
  19. Spector, David, 2007. "Bundling, tying, and collusion," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 575-581, June.
  20. McAfee, R Preston & McMillan, John & Whinston, Michael D, 1989. "Multiproduct Monopoly, Commodity Bundling, and Correlation of Values," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(2), pages 371-83, May.
  21. Schmalensee, Richard, 1977. "Using the H-Index of Concentration with Published Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 59(2), pages 186-93, May.
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  23. Palfrey, Thomas R, 1983. "Bundling Decisions by a Multiproduct Monopolist with Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(2), pages 463-83, March.
  24. Richard J. Gilbert & Michael H. Riordan, 1995. "Regulating Complementary Products: A Comparative Institutional Analysis," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(2), pages 243-256, Summer.
  25. Heckman, James J, 1979. "Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 153-61, January.
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  27. Sharon Horsky, 2006. "The Changing Architecture of Advertising Agencies," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(4), pages 367-383, 07-08.
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