DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2019.03291 ISSN: 0025-1909

Choosing to Discover the Unknown: The Effects of Choice on User Attention to Online Video Advertising

Cheng Luo, Zhenhui (Jack) Jiang, Xiuping Li, Cheng Yi, Catherine Tucker
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Strategy and Management

Online video platforms face the challenge of balancing the needs of their users with those of their advertisers. Although users typically prefer to have less intrusive ads, advertisers aim to effectively catch user attention. This paper investigates how the provision of ad choice affects the effectiveness of video advertising. We argue that allowing users to choose an ad to view may trigger a “conjecture-formation-and-confirmation” process that motivates users to pay more attention to the selected ad. Two online experiments and four laboratory experiments are conducted to test the theorized underlying mechanism of the ad choice effect. Study 1 finds when users are unfamiliar (versus familiar) with the content of ad options (i.e., they need to make conjectures about ad content), ad choice is more likely to increase user attention to the chosen ad. Study 2 and Study 3 show that the impact of ad choice on user attention is more likely to be positive when users are enabled to make conjectures about ad content, such as when choice options provide more relevant information about ad content. Study 4a and Study 4b provide more direct support for the underlying mechanism by showing that the ad choice effect is attenuated when users cannot form conjectures about ad content at the choice stage. Study 5 further demonstrates that the positive effect of ad choice is robust across different ad settings. Taken together, these studies show ad choice is more likely to boost the effectiveness of video advertising when the “conjecture-formation-and-confirmation” process is triggered.

This paper was accepted by Kartik Hosanagar, information systems.

Funding: This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [Grants 71702126, 72022008 and 72372112], the University Research Committee of the University of Hong Kong [Grant 201905159007], HKU Education Consulting (Shenzhen) [Theme-Based Research Fund SZRI2023-TBRF-02], and the Research Grant Council Hong Kong [Project 17502921].

Supplemental Material: The data and online appendices are available at .

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