Evaluating the impact of a national financial education campaign delivered via television and social media: Experimental evidence from Italy

Last registered on January 25, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Evaluating the impact of a national financial education campaign delivered via television and social media: Experimental evidence from Italy
Initial registration date
January 24, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
January 25, 2022, 10:28 AM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

University of Koblenz-Landau

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
George Washington University & NBER
PI Affiliation
George Washington University & Sapienza University of Rome
PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
A growing literature in economics studies the causal effects of media exposure on individual behavior (see DellaVigna and Ferara 2015 for a narrative review). The outcomes domains studied are diverse and cover crime (Dahl and DellaVigna 2009, ) health (Vaughan et al. 2000, La Ferrara et al. 2012, Kearney and Levine 2015, Trudeau 2016, Banerjee et al. 2019, Breza et al. 2021), education, empowerment and labor-market outcomes (Zavodny 2006, Chong and La Ferrara 2009, Jensen and Oster 2009, Ravallion et al. 2015, Bjorvatn et al. 2019, Kearney and Levine 2019), and financial decision making (Baker and George 2010, Berg and Zia 2017).

In the context of financial education, evidence from South Africa suggests that edutainment is an effective way to foster individual financial decision making (see Berg and Zia 2017) with realized treatment effects being larger, on average, than what is being found in recent meta-analyses of financial education field experiments (Miller et al. 2015, Kaiser and Menkhoff 2017, Kaiser et al. 2020). Edutainment may be seen as an especially promising avenue for financial education, as marginal costs of these interventions are generally low and the interventions appear to be well suited to operate at scale. While the available empirical evidence suggests that media (especially television and social media) can impact individual field behaviors in a meaningful way, the mechanisms leading to behavior change are less well understood. Against this backdrop, we test leading hypotheses of media impact regarding three disctinct channels (a) information provision, (b) role modeling and preference change via emotional connections, and (c) increased salience and basic awareness (see La Ferrara 2016).

To this end, we conduct a randomized encouragement experiment with a representative sample of over 3800 individuals in Italy offering monetary incentives to follow elements of a national campaign designed to foster financial literacy. We randomly allocate the individuals to one of four experimental conditions: (a) C: pure control (i.e., no encouragement), (b) T1: monetary encouragement to follow a popular soap-opera with financial messaging embedded into the story line (i.e., the role-modelling channel), T2: monetary incentive to follow a popular quiz show with questions related to financial decision-making posed within the show (i.e., the information provision channel), and (c) T3: a monetary incentive to follow a low-intensity social and traditional media campaign relying on a female fictional character communicating simple but salient and intiuitive messages about financial decision making (i.e., the salience and basic awareness channel). In addition to studying the relative effectiveness of these campaign elements, we are interested in heterogenous treatment effects by gender, baseline financial knowledge / education, and socio-economic background. Additionally, we are interested in the potential role of cognitive vs. non-cognitive process outcomes in mediating the observed treatment effects.

The results of our study are expected to be contributions to the literature on effective and scalable financial education policies and to the literature on persuasion and causal effects of media exposure more generally.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Kaiser, Tim et al. 2022. "Evaluating the impact of a national financial education campaign delivered via television and social media: Experimental evidence from Italy ." AEA RCT Registry. January 25. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.8743-1.0
Experimental Details


The Financial Education Campaign promoted by the Italian Edufin Committee aims to raise awareness of the need to increase the financial skills of Italian citizens to make conscious financial choices. The national campaign, launched in October 2021 and concluded in the first half of December 2021, includes the following treatment components:

- a product placement campaign with the inclusion of educational references in the field of planning and financial choices within the TV series “Un Posto al Sole” (T1) and the television program 'L'Eredità' (T2) broadcast on RAI networks;

- a cross-media communication campaign on television, radio, press, digital spaces and social media focused on the figure of Sofia (T3), a fictional female character promoting knowledge and information on economic and financial issues to make more informed choices.

In particular, the issues that the campaign deals with are related to the importance of financial planning (savings, investments, financing, pensions, insurance) promoting responsible financial behaviors, i.e.:
o making informed financial choices (savings, loans and investments, insurance and pensions);
o dealing with unexpected shocks (savings, financing, insurance);
o planning for the future and making conscious intertemporal choices (investments, loans, savings, retirement planning and insurance)
o taking care of ones own finances (connection decisions and financial well-being).
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Financial behaviors and outcomes (see Berg and Zia 2020, Kaiser et al. 2020) in the area of (a) budgeting and record keeping, (b) saving for emergencies and old-age, (c) investing, (d) insurance, (e) borrowing. If feasible, data relying on a complementary incentivized task regarding intertemporal choices (e.g., Convex Time Budgeting Task) will be collected at the time of the endline survey.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Midline data collection will start on 27th of December 2021 and will be concluded on 31st of January, 2022.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Financial Awareness and Attitudes (see Carpena and Zia 2020), Objective and subjective Financial knowledge, Financial Anxiety (rating scale), discussing financial matters with peers
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Objective Financial Knowledge: Number of correct responses (and/or IRT score) regarding the "Big 3 Financial Literacy items" (see Lusardi and Mitchell 2014).
Subjective financial knowledge: Self-assesment on a 1 (low) to 10 (high) scale (generic and domain specific in the areas of pensions and insurance).
Financial Awareness and Attitudes (see Carpena and Zia 2020): Responses to hypothetical vignettes based on previous work in India and South Africa and adapted to the Italian context for the purpose of this study (Carpena et al. 2017, Carpena and Zia 2020, Berg and Zia 2017).

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We employ a randomized encouragement design to study the impact of different elements of the national financial literacy campaign on financial knowledge, awareness, attitudes, and behaviors. We randomly assign participants in a nationally representative panel to one of four conditions: (a) pure control, (b) T1 (Soap Opera), (c) T2(Quiz Show), or (d) Social Media campaign. We encourage viewership/following of the campaign elements by offering monetary incentives to watch the TV content / the social media content and follow-up with respondents after episodes have aired. We ask respondents questions about the content of the episodes / campaign week to measure take-up and compliance with the encouragement treatments. In a midline (immediately after the campaign ends) and an endline survey (about 6 to 12 months later) we assess treatment effects on primary and secondary outcomes and study how attitudes, awareness and/or financial knowledge may mediate the treatment effects of the respective campaign elements.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Stratified randomizaton (by gender, age, and geographic area) in Stata.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
no clustered treatments
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
T1 (Soap Opera): 960
T2 (Quiz Show): 966
T3 (Social Media): 964
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The design has 80% power to detect a MDES (for each unadjusted T-C comparison) of about 0.13 SD units relative to a control mean of 0 (at alpha of 0.05). Note that the aveage effect on downstream behaviors is estimated to be about 0.1 SD units in a meta-analysis of 76 RCTs (Kaiser et al. 2020).
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