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Societal Spillovers of TV Advertising – Social Distancing During a Public Health Crisis

Societal Spillovers of TV Advertising – Social Distancing During a Public Health Crisis

Ayan Ghosh Dastidar, Sarang Sunder and Denish Shah

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Brands have tremendous opportunities to disseminate socially relevant messages embedded in the narratives of their TV ads to impact socially beneficial outcomes. Brands should be strategic about their advertising not just from a brand-outcome standpoint, but also from a societal-outcome standpoint. Brand advertising can indeed do societal good!

Related Marketing Courses: ​
Advertising and Promotion; Marketing Strategy

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Full Citation: ​
Ayan Ghosh Dastidar, Sarang Sunder, Denish Shah (2022), “Societal Spillovers of TV Advertising – Social Distancing During a Public Health Crisis,” Journal of Marketing, doi: 10.1177/00222429221130011

Article Abstract
Can TV Advertising affect societal outcomes beyond traditional marketing outcomes such as sales and brand awareness? The authors address this question in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic by analyzing daily advertising and mobility data for 2,194 counties across 204 Designated Market Areas in the US. By employing a border identification strategy that exploits discontinuities across television markets, the authors find a significant positive causal relationship between TV ads from brands containing COVID-19 narratives, and people’s social distancing behavior while controlling for government policy interventions (e.g., shelter-in-place, mask mandates). The estimated effects are almost 11 times larger in counties without government policy interventions (compared to counties with policy interventions). Notably, while the overall impact of government ads on social distancing behavior is non-significant, the effect becomes significantly negative (positive) in the presence (absence) of policy interventions. The results are robust to alternative model specifications, variable operationalizations, and other data considerations. The findings underscore the critical role that spillover effects from brand-sponsored TV ads can play during major public crises, including mitigating the lack of local governments’ policy interventions. The findings bear substantive implications for managers and policymakers regarding how advertising strategies may help improve public health outcomes or advance social good.


Special thanks to Demi Oba, Duke University, for his support in working with authors on submissions to this program.

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Ayan Ghosh Dastidar is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Clark University, USA.

Sarang Sunder is Associate Professor, Indiana University, USA.

Denish Shah is Barbara & Elmer Sunday Associate Professor of Marketing, Founding Director of the Social Media Intelligence Lab, and Director of the Marketing RoundTable, Georgia State University, USA.