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Nudging people to better health with online ads

NOVEMBER 4, 2022

Elad Yom-Tov, PhD
Senior Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research
Associate Research Fellow, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

About the Presentation: It has been estimated that people in the USA are exposed to around 5000 ads per day. Unfortunately, too few of these ads try to steer people to better health, partly because of the unique requirements of campaigns aimed at promoting behavior change for health.  In my talk I will discuss some of the ways in which online ads can be used to promote public health measures and nudge people to better health, focusing on novel improvements to each part of the advertising campaign, including keyword selection, copywriting, and evaluation.

I will begin by showing how the selection of tangentially-relevant keywords can promote vaccination in populations which did not consider it. I will then present our work on automatic copywriting, where algorithms were trained to write advertisements which are as good as those written by human copywriters, and how human copywriters working together with a translation algorithm can reach performance superior to either. I will discuss the nudging mechanisms which the algorithms learned to utilize to maximize the performance of the ads. Finally, I will show how advertising systems can be trained to focus on people who should seek healthcare, both for illnesses such as cancer and for COVID19, and to assist those people to reach appropriate treatment. I will end with a discussion of the ethical implications of these capabilities.

About the Presenter:  Dr. Elad Yom-Tov is a Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and an Associate Research Fellow at the Technion. Before joining Microsoft he was with Yahoo Research, IBM Research, and Rafael. His primary research interests are in applications of Information Retrieval and large-scale Machine Learning to improve health and medicine. Dr. Yom-Tov studied at Tel-Aviv University and the Technion in Israel. He has published four books, over 150 papers (including 4 award-winning ones), and has over 30 awarded patents. Most recently he is the author of “Crowdsourced Health: How What You Do on the Internet Will Improve Medicine” (MIT Press, 2016).