This dissertation consists of three essays that focus on the theoretical analysis of regulation of firm’s communication regarding the quality of its product and the impact of such regulation on market outcome.
The first essay, “Advertising Through Influencers and Disclosure Regulation”, focuses on the recent FTC regulations which require mandatory disclosure of all paid advertising content through social media influencers. This chapter investigates the impact of this disclosure policy on market outcomes when the influencer has the expertise to evaluate product quality and influence the beliefs of both potential buyers as well as the firm. In markets where the influencers do not care much about their followers or lack sufficient expertise and in markets with high uncertainty about product quality, the disclosure regulation changes the outcome from hidden paid advertising to unbiased independent reviews; this improves not only the consumer and social welfare but also the expected profit of the firm. Further, when the firm has private information about the distribution of its product quality, the disclosure policy facilitates signaling of this private information; paid (independent) review is posted when quality is more likely to be low (high).
The second essay, “Consumer Naivety and Price Signaling”, focuses on naive consumers who cannot judge the quality of the product through prices because of cognitive limitations. In a static signaling model, I analyze the pricing behavior of a monopolist, selling product of uncertain quality, in the presence of such naive consumers. In the high-quality state, the presence of high proportion of naive consumers reduces the price of the product and hence improves overall welfare of the society. On the other hand, in the low-quality state, it increases the price of the product (depending on the valuations) thereby reducing social surplus. Allowing for disclosure as an alternative to communicate quality, the high-quality monopolist has no incentive to disclose in the presence of high proportion of naive consumers. This provides explanation for the infrequent voluntary disclosure by some industries.
The third essay, “Deceptive Advertising, Regulation and Naive Consumers”, analyzes markets where buyers have incomplete information about product quality, consumer sophistication increases the case for strong regulation of deceptive advertising by firms. In a model where a fraction of buyers are naive (i.e., cannot update beliefs based on market signals and believe all advertising claims) and prior beliefs of the buyers about product quality are optimistic, results show that the socially optimal level of penalty is (a) higher than the penalty required to merely avoid deception by firms and (b) increasing in the proportion of sophisticated buyers. The optimal penalty for false advertising not only discourages deception but also reduces prices by eliminating signaling distortion. Moreover, a low level of penalty is worse than no penalty from a social welfare standpoint.
Prof. Santanu Roy
Dr. Bo Chen
Dr. James Lake
Dr. R. Canan Savaskan-Ebert
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Gupta, Aastha, "Essays in Advertising, Regulation and Consumer Naivety" (2022). Economics Theses and Dissertations. 15.