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Even when they have the data, other issues (eg principal-agent problems) will mean that firms keep wasting money. See https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2785009


I'd recently considered the same thing. To access the website of an airline I used Google to find them and was offered a sponsored search so I could search for flights direct from the Google search results. I instead clicked on the search result. If they had offered me other airlines (there are only 3 majors in Australia) I would have ignored them. I want a specific company and I will almost certainly stick with it. Now if I was after accomodation in my destination and searched, I might well be swayed by having something appear first as an ad, and that is what happens, and I expect that is something that benefits advertisers.

It all comes back to what I think you've mentioned before which is to first understand your market. Then decide the appropriate questions, get reliable data and interpret it. Really nothing different than any other area of statistics.

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