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Evaluating the dissemination and unevenness in consumption of public health messaging through online advertising

The Wheeler Institute supports Professor Lambrecht‘s new research: Inequalities in Disseminating Health Information Through Online Advertising

To what extent does health information advertised through video content reach different segments of the population

This research will aim to disseminate health information, about topics like handwashing, through advertising campaigns on Facebook and then analyse granular data outputs. The analysis will consist of two studies:

  • Analysis of advertising across 190 different countries. This will provide an understanding of how information reaches individuals in both emerging and developed countries, and the extent to which individuals engage with it. This will help identify the extent to which different demographic groups can be accessed through online advertising. For example, the preliminary study shows that as age increases, individuals are more likely to be targeted by and view video ads illustrating the proper handwashing practice, with research showing that in the US, people over 65 are likely to be targeted by and engage with video ads. However, in emerging markets, this age group have less internet access and could be at a disadvantage. At the same time, in the US younger age segments are less likely to engage with this content. This research will check whether these patterns hold worldwide and explore such unevenness in access to and consumption of health-related information.
  • Analysis of advertising across all 41,000 zip codes in the USA and matching it with data provided by Safegraph, which provides detailed information on individuals’ movements during the pandemic. Combining those two data sets with zip-code level demographics will help understand how different segments in different locations respond to lockdown measures being lifted and whether or not this aligns with sensitivity to preventive health measures. The research will focus on the data that an advertiser would obtain, such as impressions, reach as well as the rate of playing the advertising video and clicks for each demographic group and match this to information on individual users based on mobile phone locations, enabling measurement of the extent to which users exit lockdown.

The Impact

This research should provide insights into which groups are more likely to be willing to engage with preventive health information. We aim to study differences across countries and, within the US, that links to behaviour when the lockdown is lifted across states. Importantly, while developing countries face similar threats from Covid-19 as developed countries, they are also more financially constrained and there is a concern that in the long-run they may be harder hit. However, preventive health measures such as handwashing or continued (but limited) social distancing are available and can be implemented. Accordingly, it is important to create awareness and diffuse information about these measures to the population. This research will provide an understanding of how individuals across the world will respond to coronavirus information, which is of prime importance for any country globally.

Who is involved?

Advertising is one important way for public policymakers, as well as firms, to disseminate information to the population at large. Digital advertising is a means of reaching a large number of people, often with relatively little setup costs. However, if certain segments of the population do not have access to the internet, it is increasingly difficult to obtain such information. At the same time, if those who are more likely to have access are less likely to engage with the content, this is also problematic. This research will shed light on imbalances across different demographic groups, including in emerging markets relative to developed economies. In addition, it will provide insights about the implications regarding how individuals the respond to lifting of lockdown measures may hold.

Professor Lambrecht

The “Inequalities in Disseminating Health Information Through Online Advertising” project is part of the Wheeler Institute COVID-19 Research Support. Please see here to learn more about our research support.

The Wheeler Institute is seeking to understand, illuminate and offer solutions to the challenges created by COVID-19.  With an aim to identify the role of business in addressing these challenges and a focus on the implications and actions for those in developing countries.  We are now offering a number of grants to members of the LBS academic community for new research on issues related to the current crisis.

1 comment on “Evaluating the dissemination and unevenness in consumption of public health messaging through online advertising”

  1. Reynold Small Reply

    A very valid concern. I would love to see the results of this research but past experiences with both Demographics already paint a picture of the outcome.

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