The Impact of Ad-Blocking on Consumer Behavior: A Lab Experiment

20 maggio 2019
20 maggio 2019

Date&Time: May 20, 2019 - h 11am
Venue: Via Sommarive 5 - Polo Ferrari 1 (Povo, TN) - Room Garda


  • Dr. Alisa Frik - International Computer Science Institute, University of California, Berkeley, USA


While much previous research has focused on how online ads affect business revenues, little is known about their impact on consumers. Online advertising advocates claim that targeted ads help consumers find better and cheaper deals faster. In our study we aim at vetting some of those claims. We focus on contextual ads (ads that are targeted to specific contexts, such as a search query). Specifically, in a lab experiment with real economic incentives we study the impact of the presence or absence of search ads (also known as sponsored search results) on participants’ online purchase behavior (N=212).
We compare the time needed to find products to purchase online, the amounts spent, and the degree of satisfaction with purchased items when contextually targeted ads are shown versus when those ads are blocked on the results pages of a popular search engine. We find that removal of contextual ads using ad blockers did not have a statistically significant effect on the price of products participants chose, time they spent searching for them, or how satisfied they were with the chosen products, prices, and perceived quality. In essence: we do not reject the null hypothesis that consumer welfare stays constant when ads are blocked or are shown. In other words, we do not find evidence that the presence of sponsored search ads in fact increases consumers welfare in terms of prices paid, search costs, or product satisfaction.

About the Speaker

Dr. Alisa Frik is a postdoctoral researcher at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and the University of California, Berkeley. She works with the Usable Security and Privacy research group, under the direction of Dr. Serge Egelman. Her current projects are about usable security for emerging healthcare technologies for older adults, increasing users’ computer security compliance by reducing present bias, personalised security nudges, bystanders’ privacy, privacy concerns of domestic workers, privacy expectations regarding always listening voice assistant devices, and the effects of ad-blockers on consumers’ welfare. She has obtained a Ph.D. degree in Behavioral and Experimental Economics and Social Sciences from the University of Trento, Italy. She also spent 1 year visiting the Carnegie Mellon University, where she worked with Prof. Alessandro Acquisti. She has done research on the the impact of risk tolerance and need for control on the privacy related behaviors, and implicit measurement of privacy risk attitudes; factors affecting consumers' trust with respect to how e-commerce websites will treat their personal information and subsequent intention to purchase from such websites. Dr. Frik’s preferred methodological tools include lab and field experiments, surveys, focus groups, interviews, and participatory design.

Contact: ivan.pashchenko [at] (Ivan Pashchenko)