Recent Foster PhD graduate receives Frank M. Bass Dissertation Paper Award

Omid Rafieian

Omid Rafieian (PhD 2020), a recent graduate of the PhD Program at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, has won this year’s Frank M. Bass Dissertation Paper Award from the INFORMS Society for Marketing Science.

INFORMS is the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

The award recognizes the Marketing Science paper “Targeting and Privacy in Mobile Advertising,” which was a collaboration of Rafieian, now an assistant professor at Cornell Tech and the SC Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, and his graduate advisor, Hema Yoganarasimhan, a professor of marketing, Michael G. Foster Faculty Fellow and founding director of the Customer Analytics Center at Foster.

The paper examines mobile in-app advertising, which is the dominant form of digital advertising. Although these ads possess excellent user-tracking properties, they have raised privacy concerns, which have resulted in a debate on the value of different types of targeting information, the incentives of ad networks to engage in behavioral targeting and the role of regulation.

The analysis by Rafieian and Yoganarasimhan shows that the most efficient targeting does not maximize ad network revenues. Rather, revenues are maximized when the ad network does not allow advertisers to engage in behavioral targeting.

“Our results,” the authors write, “suggest that ad networks may have economic incentives to preserve users’ privacy without external regulation.”

A fruitful collaboration

Yoganarasimhan earned her PhD in marketing from Yale University and served on the faculty of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management before joining the Foster School’s Department of Marketing and International Business in 2014.

Recognized as one of the leading experts in quantitative marketing, her research uses marketing analytics, econometrics, machine learning and structural models to advance knowledge of digital marketing, digital advertising, two-sided markets, auctions, and online search.

photo of hema

Hema Yoganarasimhan

Yoganarasimhan’s work has earned the Adobe Digital Marketing Research Award (2017), the John D.C. Little Best Paper Award (2013) and the Frank M. Bass Outstanding Dissertation Award (2012).

In 2015, she was recognized as a Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar. In 2020, she was named an MSI Scholar.

A recipient of Foster’s PhD Mentor Award, Yoganarasimhan received the 2021 Erin Anderson Award from the American Marketing Association (AMA), annually recognizing one emerging female marketing scholar who has made an extraordinary impact through research and mentoring of doctoral students and junior faculty.

One of those students was Rafieian, whose dissertation committee she chaired.

While working with Yoganarasimhan in the Foster PhD Program from 2015 to 2020, Rafieian composed a series of essays on personalization and marketing design in mobile advertising. In addition to the Bass Award, this work also won the 2020 American Statistical Association Doctoral Research Award, the 2019 Vithala R. and Saroj V. Rao ISMS Doctoral Dissertation Award, and the 2019 Marketing Science Institute’s Alden G. Clayton Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Competition.

During his time at Foster, Rafieian also received the PhD Program’s Dean’s Achievement Award and was a fellow at the American Marketing Association-Sheth Doctoral Consortium in 2019.