Media multitasking competes with television advertising for consumers’ attention, but may also facilitate immediate and measurable response to some advertisements. This paper explores whether and how television advertising influences online shopping. We construct a massive data set spanning $3.4 billion in spending by 20 brands, measures of brands’ website traffic and transactions, and ad content measures for 1, 224 commercials. We use a quasi-experimental design to estimate whether and how TV advertising influences changes in online shopping within two-minute pre/post windows of time. We use nonadvertising competitors’ online shopping in a difference-in-differences approach to measure the same effects in two-hour windows around the time of the ad. The findings indicate that television advertising does influence online shopping and that advertising content plays a key role. Action-focus content increases direct website traffic and sales. Information-focus and emotion-focus ad content actually reduce website traffic while simultaneously increasing purchases, with a positive net effect on sales for most brands. These results imply that brands seeking to attract multitaskers’ attention and dollars must select their advertising copy carefully.
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