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Media, ad blockers, and COVID-19
Last registered on July 24, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Media, ad blockers, and COVID-19
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0006010
Initial registration date
July 23, 2020
Last updated
July 24, 2020 10:33 AM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Imperial College London
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Imperial College London
PI Affiliation
Imperial College London
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2020-06-15
End date
2020-06-20
Secondary IDs
Abstract
The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in an unprecedented media consumption in households, yet this increase in not reflected in additional revenues for newspapers. On the contrary, digital advertising is reported to have decreased. A large problem is related to advertisers using “ad blockers” that effectively prevent their advertisements from be shown next to COVID-related stories. This project will investigate if there are ways to arrest this decline during the crisis. We will conduct an eye-tracking study of a 1000 UK and US participants. The project’s findings would constitute experimental causal evidence regarding whether ads shown next to COVID-related articles harm the advertisers. These findings will help us understand the impact (or lack thereof) of coronavirus on attention to advertising in newsbrands. This may have a dramatic effect on the revenues of one of the communities.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Valletti, Tommaso, Andre Veiga and Andre Veiga. 2020. "Media, ad blockers, and COVID-19." AEA RCT Registry. July 24. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6010-1.0.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2020-06-15
Intervention End Date
2020-06-20
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
• recall of the ads (spontaneous and prompted ad awareness)
• attitudes to advertising that appears in newsbrands and/or next to Covid content
• willingness to pay/intent to purchase
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We would primarily analyse the relationship between attention and the questionnaire data. We'd look at recall, looking at the relationship between attention to the ads and subsequent recall of the brand, and any variance between Covid- and non-covid ads; we'd look at brand perceptions and favourability, to see if the context of the ad had any impact on its reception; and we'd cut the questionnaire and attention data by the demographics and psychographics.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
8 x cells of 125 online representative respondents (a desktop and a mobile cell in each country, each split into a pair of sub cells, n=1000) will be asked to read 12 pages of newsbrand content while having their eyes tracked using a webcam eye tracking software.

The pages will be selected by the researchers, and contain a mixture of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ news stories, including both COVID- and non-COVID related stories. The sites and pages will be chosen with reference to the sites' daily visitor numbers. The same content and content/advertising combinations will be shown across both mobile and desktop cells. The pages will be served in a random order to remove order effects.

There will be three ad slots on each page
• Desktop 1 x static billboard and 2 static DMPUs (Double Mid Page Units)
• Mobile – 3 MPUs (Mid Page Units)

The number, format and location of ads on each will be held constant to remove the impact of differences in media inventory. All the formats chosen are regularly used in the digital advertising industry and are well understood by publishers and advertisers.

Respondents will be invited to read the pages as they would normally, and then complete a short mental arithmetic exercise, designed to wipe their short term memory and so reduce recency bias

Having done this, they will be asked to answer a questionnaire to assess the primary outcome variables (mentioned above).

A demographic and geographic location questionnaire will have been administered before the test commenced.

Respondents would be fully aware that they are taking part in an eye tracking study and paid for their time. However, we would not reveal to them the objectives of the study before asking them to read the pages and complete the questionnaire.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
8 cells of 125 online representative respondents
Sample size: planned number of observations
1000 respondents
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
8 cells of 125 online representative respondents (a desktop and a mobile cell in UK and US , each split into a pair of sub cells, n=1000).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Imperial College London - Joint Research Compliance Office
IRB Approval Date
2020-06-19
IRB Approval Number
20IC6104
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS