Optimal Control of Opinion Dissemination Through Advertising

Saswati Sarkar
Professor, Electrical and Systems Engineering Department
University of Pennsylvania
SERC 306
Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - 11:00
Opinion dissemination and influence through advertising is one of the most capital intensive industries today, further stimulated by the advent of new media such as social media. We show how such opinion influencing may be formulated as optimal control problems and optimal strategies obtained through the application of engineering tools. We analyze optimal strategies for the allocation of a finite budget that can be invested in different advertising channels over time with the objective of influencing social opinions in a network of individuals. In our analysis, we consider both exogenous influence mechanisms, such as advertising campaigns, as well as endogenous mechanisms of social influence, such as word-of-mouth and peer-pressure, which are modeled using diffusion dynamics. We characterize the optimal influence strategies for a broad family of objective functions and identify some simple underlying structures. Our results would find application in the election campaign, product advertising, and social opinion formation