Assessing digital advertising exposure using a virtual experimental protocol

Jennifer Cantrell, Jeffrey Bingenheimer, Shreya Tulsiani, Elizabeth Hair, Donna Vallone, Sarah Mills, Raquel Gerard, William D. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The rapid increase in online public education campaigns underscores the need for a better understanding of the effects of exposure to digital advertising and targeted individual-level outcomes. The goal of this study is to develop a virtual experimental protocol to evaluate the dose-response effects of individual-level exposure to digital video ads on campaign outcomes in a naturalistic online browsing context. Methods: Young adults aged 18–24 years (n = 221) completed three 5 min viewing sessions on a realistic mock-up of the YouTube mobile app over a period of 2 weeks, followed by a 10-min survey after the third session. Participants were randomized to view between 0 and 6 exposures of ads from an e-cigarette prevention campaign; respondents viewed a total of 2 ads per session, with 0 to 2 of those ads being non-skippable digital video ads from the campaign and/or a dummy ad. The video ads played prior to short YouTube videos. Outcomes measured were self-reported ad recognition, frequency of ad exposure, and main message knowledge. Results: This study demonstrates a rapidly accessible virtual experimental protocol for evaluating the dose-response effects of digital advertising and individual-level outcomes. Five digital exposures of non-skippable video ads delivered via this platform over a 2-week period generated the highest ad recognition when there were up to six exposures. Higher exposure levels may be needed for message knowledge and ad-content-related effects. Conclusion: This protocol can be extended to investigate dose-response effects and mechanisms of action of individual-level exposure to digital advertising for multiple campaign outcomes, including changes in knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs. Findings can inform evidence for adequate levels of digital exposure in public education campaigns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDigital Health
StatePublished - 2022


  • Health communications
  • behavior change
  • digital
  • online
  • prevention
  • remote clinical trials
  • smoking
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Information Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing digital advertising exposure using a virtual experimental protocol'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this