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Advertising as Information: Matching Products to Buyers


  • Kyle Bagwell
  • Garey Ramey


We consider communication of quality via cheap talk and dissipative advertising, when consumers have heterogeneous tastes for quality. For search goods, cheap talk communicates quality when fixed costs are roughly constant across quality levels, while if fixed costs vary greatly with quality, then firms having the higher-fixed-cost quality level use dissipative advertising. Further, product differentiation (generically) cannot occur in the absence of advertising. For experience goods, quality can be communicated by cheap talk in a range where low-quality firms have greater fixed costs, and low-quality firms use dissipative advertising if their fixed costs are greater still.

Suggested Citation

  • Kyle Bagwell & Garey Ramey, 1992. "Advertising as Information: Matching Products to Buyers," Discussion Papers 1005, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Schmalensee, Richard, 1978. "A Model of Advertising and Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 485-503, June.
    2. Gene M. Grossman & Carl Shapiro, 1984. "Informative Advertising with Differentiated Products," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(1), pages 63-81.
    3. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1986. "Price and Advertising Signals of Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 796-821, August.
    4. Avner Shaked & John Sutton, 1982. "Relaxing Price Competition Through Product Differentiation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(1), pages 3-13.
    5. Nelson, Phillip, 1970. "Information and Consumer Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(2), pages 311-329, March-Apr.
    6. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Riordan, Michael H, 1984. "Advertising as a Signal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 427-450, June.
    7. Jaskold Gabszewicz, J. & Thisse, J. -F., 1979. "Price competition, quality and income disparities," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 340-359, June.
    8. repec:hoo:wpaper:91-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Archibald, Robert B & Haulman, Clyde A & Moody, Carlisle E, Jr, 1983. " Quality, Price, Advertising, and Published Quality Ratings," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(4), pages 347-356, March.
    10. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
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    Cited by:

    1. J.-C. Bureau & E. Gozlan & S. Marette, 1999. "Quality signaling and international trade in food products," THEMA Working Papers 99-13, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    2. Archishman Chakraborty & Rick Harbaugh, 2012. "Persuasive Puffery," Working Papers 2012-05, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.

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