Michigan Ross PhD Student’s Award-Winning Paper Could Impact The Way YouTube Shows You Ads

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Prashant Rajaram, a doctoral student at the Ross School of Business, recently received the best paper award at the 2019 Haring Symposium at Indiana University for his research regarding advertising in the ever-changing on-demand streaming industry.

To earn the best paper award, Rajaram beat out representatives from each of the other 13 schools participating in the symposium, which provides doctoral students in marketing with a forum to present and discuss their research.

“I went in with no expectations, but then when your work is acknowledged, it feels really rewarding,” said Rajaram, who’s finishing his fourth year in the Ross marketing PhD program.

Rajaram’s winning paper — titled “Finding the Sweet Spot: Ad Scheduling on Streaming Media” — is based on his research into advertising on free, on-demand streaming platforms like YouTube, Dailymotion, and IMDb Freedive. He worked alongside Ross marketing professors Puneet Manchanda and Eric Schwartz to develop an optimal advertising schedule for these platforms that maximizes ad exposure without compromising how much content a viewer consumes.

The optimal schedule is built using machine-learning tools that predict the "ad tolerance" of a viewer from their past behavior. In addition, the researchers created a decision support system that can be used by the streaming platform to pick the level of ad exposure and content consumption based on its economic objectives.

Therefore, through using their methods, both the streaming platform and its viewers can be better off. This research is especially important as the on-demand streaming media landscape continues to change.

“It’s very exciting to be looking into this space because there have been many new entrants in the past few years that are trying to figure out advertising in free-streaming models,” explained Rajaram. “This means our research has strong practical implications in the industry.”

Rajaram credits his collaborators on the paper with helping him finish on top at the Haring Symposium, and now that their research has won best paper, Rajaram said they’re working toward submitting it to a peer-reviewed journal for publication.

“Professors Manchanda and Schwartz have been great advisors, and they really helped mentor me before the symposium,” Rajaram said. “We have a great relationship and I’m happy that our hard work was recognized.”

Rajaram said he’s continuing to research free on-demand streaming platforms, and is specifically looking into what components of videos make them popular and engaging.

More about the Michigan Ross PhD Program