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No Control: Advertising bans and the substitutability of online and offline advertising

No ControlCatherine Tucker

Seventeen U.S. states do not allow alcohol advertising, an effort to curb the social ills of underage drinking, drunk driving, and alcohol abuse.

But with the freewheeling, unregulated style of Internet advertising, might it all be in vain? Might advertising bans on alcohol and other controlled products—tobacco, medication, gambling—have backfired?

New research from Catherine Tucker, Douglas Drane Career Development Professor in Information Technology and Management and associate professor of marketing, finds that online alcohol advertisements are most effective in states that ban boozy billboards and transit ads.

“We found that in states that banned billboard alcohol advertising, people are 8 percent less likely to say that they will buy alcohol—but for consumers exposed to online advertising, this gap narrows to 3 percent,” Tucker said. “Online alcohol ad campaigns are much more effective in states with offline alcohol ad bans than in states without such bans.”

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