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journal of optimization theory and applications: Vol. 123, No. 1, pp.

163–185, October 2004 (© 2004)
Competitive Advertising under Uncertainty:
A Stochastic Differential Game Approach
1
A. Prasad
2
and S. P. Sethi
3
Communicated by G. Leitmann
Abstract. We analyze optimal advertising spending in a duopolistic
market where each firm’s market share depends on its own and its
competitor’s advertising decisions, and is also subject to stochastic
disturbances. We develop a differential game model of advertising in
which the dynamic behavior is based on the Sethi stochastic advertis-
ing model and the Lanchester model of combat. Particularly impor-
tant to note is the morphing of the sales decay term in the Sethi
model into decay caused by competitive advertising and noncompeti-
tive churn that acts to equalize market shares in the absence of adver-
tising. We derive closed-loop Nash equilibria for symmetric as well as
asymmetric competitors. For all cases, explicit solutions and compar-
ative statics are presented.
Key Words. Advertising, dynamic duopoly, competitive strategy,
differential games, stochastic differential equations.
1. Introduction
The advertising spending decision has been the focus of considerable
interest for researchers in marketing as evidenced by the large body of lit-
erature devoted to this subject starting with Vidale and Wolfe (Ref. 1) and
reported in surveys by Sethi (Ref. 2) and by Feichtinger, Hartl, and Sethi
(Ref. 3). The annual expenditure on advertising by firms was 117 billion
dollars in 2002 in the US alone (Ref. 4). At the same time, marketers have
1
The authors thank the PhD seminar participants at the University of Texas at Dallas
for helpful comments.
2
Assistant Professor, School of Management, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson,
Texas.
3
Ashbel Smith Professor, School of Management, University of Texas at Dallas,
Richardson, Texas.
163
0022-3239/04/1000-0163/0 © 2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation
164 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
noted that firms advertise often in a suboptimal manner. For example,
Patti and Blasko (Refs. 5–6) found in surveys that a large percentage of
industrial and consumer good firms do advertising budgeting based on the
affordable method, the percentage-of-sales method, and the competitive-
parity method. These methods are rarely optimal. A number of researchers
have concluded also that firms tend to overadvertise (Refs. 7–8).
The combination of large amounts of money spent on advertising and
potential inefficiencies in the advertising budgeting process motivates the
need to better understanding optimal advertising budgeting. However, one
must be careful to limit the conclusions of optimality only to those mar-
kets for which the model applies. Thus, we define our market context and
research question as follows.
We examine a duopoly market in a mature product category where
two firms compete for market share using advertising as the dominant
marketing tool. The firms are strategic in their behavior; that is, they take
actions that maximize their objective while considering also the actions
of the competitor. Furthermore, they interact dynamically for the fore-
seeable future. This is due in part to the carryover effect of advertising,
which means that advertising spending today will continue to influence
sales several months down the line. Each firm’s advertising acts to increase
its market share, while the competitor’s advertising acts to reduce its mar-
ket share. In addition to market share decay caused by competitive adver-
tising, noncompetitive factors described in the next paragraph can cause
market share churn. However, marketing and competitive activities alone
do not govern market shares in a deterministic manner, because there is
inherent randomness in the marketplace and in the choice behavior of cus-
tomers. The market for cola drinks, dominated by Coke and Pepsi, is an
example of a market with such features (Refs. 9–11).
Explanations for churn are product obsolescence, forgetting (Ref. 1),
lack of market differentiation (Ref. 12), lack of information (Ref. 13), vari-
ety seeking (Ref. 14), and brand switching. These factors do not neces-
sarily cause market share to decay because the decay of market share for
one firm is a gain in market share for the other. Hence, we use the term
“churn” rather than “decay”. Due to churn, the market shares converge to
a long-run equilibrium when neither brand is advertised for a very long
duration. The proposed model takes into account decay due to competi-
tive advertising as well as churn due to noncompetitive factors.
For a competitive market with stochastic disturbances and other fea-
tures as described above, our objective is to recommend optimal advertis-
ing expenditures over time for the two firms. A stochastic differential game
model is formulated based on the monopoly model of Sethi (Ref. 15). We
obtain explicit closed-loop solutions.
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 165
Our research follows in the operations research tradition in marketing
(Refs. 9–11 and Refs. 16–19). Whereas elements of the marketing envi-
ronment described above, such as dynamics, competition, competitive and
noncompetitive decay, and also stochasticity, have been commonly used
by individual models, there exist few attempts to study them together. We
provide a focused discussion of the literature in Section 2.
2. Background
Among the earliest aggregate response models is the Vidale-Wolfe
model whose dynamics is given by
dx(t )/dt =ρu(t )(1−x(t )) −δx(t ), x(0) =x
0
, (1)
where x(t ) is the sales rate (expressed as a fraction of the total market)
at time t, u(t ) is the advertising expenditure rate, ρ is a response constant,
and δ is a market share decay constant; ρ determines the effectiveness of
advertising, while δ determines the rate at which consumers are lost due to
product obsolescence, forgetting, etc. The formulation has several desirable
properties; for example, market share has a concave response to advertis-
ing, and there is a saturation level (Ref. 20). The optimal advertising path
for the Vidale-Wolfe dynamics is provided by Sethi (Ref. 21).
Subsequent research extended the basic framework to incorporate
competitive advertising (Refs. 22–23). A competitive extension of the
Vidale-Wolfe model, based on the Lanchester model of combat (Refs. 20
and 24), is
dx(t )/dt =ρ
1
u
1
(x(t ), y(t ))(1−x(t ))
−ρ
2
u
2
(x(t ), y(t ))x(t ), x(0) =x
0
, (2)
dy(t )/dt =ρ
2
u
2
(x(t ), y(t ))x(t )
−ρ
1
u
1
(x(t ), y(t ))(1−x(t )), y(0) =1−x
0
, (3)
where x(t ) and y(t ) represent the market shares of the two firms, whose
parameters and decision variables are indexed 1 and 2 respectively. Note
that
x(t ) +y(t ) =1.
In addition to competitive extensions, recent research has examined
the problem where the state variable, usually market share, is determined
by stochastic disturbances in addition to advertising spending. We start
166 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
with the stochastic, monopoly advertising model of Sethi (Ref. 15). The
Sethi model is given by the It ˆ o equation
dx(t ) =

ρu(t )

1−x(t ) −δx(t )

dt +σ(x)dw(t ), x(0) =x
0
, (4)
where σ(x) represents a variance term and w(t ) represents a standard
Wiener process. The model has the useful feature in that it has a basic
resemblance to the Vidale-Wolfe model and at the same time it permits an
explicit solution to the advertising spending decision. We wish to extend
this model to incorporate competition.
A related extension is due to Sorger (Ref. 19). He uses a special case
of the Lanchester model to obtain a duopoly version of the Sethi model.
This is
dx/dt =ρ
1
u
1
(x, y)

1−x −ρ
2
u
2
(x, y)

x, x(0) =x
0
, (5)
dy/dt =ρ
2
u
2
(x, y)

1−y −ρ
1
u
1
(x, y)

y, y(0) =1−x
0
. (6)
Chintagunta and Jain (Ref. 17) test this specification using data from
the pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, beer and detergent industries, and find
it to be appropriate. Sorger describes the appealing characteristics of the
specification, noting that it is compatible with word-of-mouth and nonlin-
ear effects. However, the decay constant δ is not included here and it is
assumed to be replaced totally by competitive effects.
On the other hand, we extend the Sethi model to allow for competi-
tion. We are able to do so, while retaining the decay constant. Note that a
stochastic version of the Sorger model is a special case of ours (specified
in the next section) when δ =0. The decay constant, which goes back to
the Vidale-Wolfe formulation, is not solely replaced by competitive adver-
tising effects. Thus, in order to capture effects such as forgetting, the decay
parameter has been morphed into the churn parameter. We will discuss
how including the term affects the outcome.
3. Model
We consider a duopoly market in a mature product category where
total sales are distributed between two firms, denoted firm 1 and firm 2,
which compete for market share through advertising spending. We denote
the market shares of firms 1 and 2 at time t as x(t ) and y(t ), respectively.
Using the subscript i ∈{1, 2} to reference the two firms, u
i
(x(t ), y(t ), t ) ≥0
is the advertising control, ρ
i
>0 is the advertising effectiveness parameter,
r
i
>0 is the discount rate, δ >0 is the churn parameter, and c
i
>0 is a cost
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 167
parameter. The time argument will be suppressed in future where no con-
fusion arises. The model dynamics is given by
dx =[ρ
1
u
1
(x, y)

1−x −ρ
2
u
2
(x, y)

x −δ(x −y)]dt
+σ(x, y)dw, x(0) =x
0
, (7)
dy =[ρ
2
u
2
(x, y)

1−y −ρ
1
u
1
(x, y)

y −δ(y −x)]dt
−σ(x, y)dw, y(0) =1−x
0
. (8)
This specification has the same desirable properties of concave response
with saturation as the Vidale-Wolfe model. The market share is nonde-
creasing with own advertising and nonincreasing with the competitor’s
advertising expenditure. Consistent with the literature, churn is propor-
tional to the market share. As discussed, it is caused by influences other
than competitive advertising, such as a lack of perceived differentiation
between brands, so that the market shares tend to converge in the absence
of advertising. Finally, the market shares are subject to a white noise term
σ(x, y)dw.
Since
dx +dy =0 and x(0) +y(0) =1,
we have
x(t ) +y(t ) =1, for all t ≥0.
Now that y(t ) = 1 − x(t ), we need use only the market share of firm
1 to completely describe the market dynamics. Thus, u
i
(x, y), i = 1, 2,
and σ(x, y) can be written as u
i
(x, 1 −x) and σ(x, 1 −x). With a slight
abuse of notation, we will use u
i
(x) and σ(x) in place of u
i
(x, 1−x) and
σ(x, 1−x), respectively. Thus,
dx =[ρ
1
u
1
(x)

1−x −ρ
2
u
2
(x)

x −δ(2x −1)]dt +σ(x)dw,
x(0) =x
0
, (9)
with 0≤x
0
≤1.
As noted in Ref. 15, when choosing a formulation, an important con-
sideration is that the market share should remain bounded within [0, 1],
which can be problematic given stochastic disturbances. In our model, it is
easy to see that x ∈[0, 1] almost surely for t >0, as long as u
i
(x) and σ(x)
are continuous functions that satisfy the Lipschitz conditions on every
closed subinterval of (0, 1) and further that u
i
(x) ≥0, x ∈[0, 1], and
σ(x) >0, x ∈(0, 1) and σ(0) =σ(1) =0. (10)
168 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
With this, we have a strictly positive drift at x =0 and a strictly negative
drift at x =1, i.e.,
ρ
1
u
1
(0)

1−0+δ >0 and −ρ
2
u
2
(1) −δ <0. (11)
Then, from Gihman and Skorohod (Ref. 25, Theorem 2, pp. 149 and
157–158), x =0 and x =1 are natural boundaries for the solutions of (9)
with x
0
∈[0, 1]; i.e., x ∈(0, 1) almost surely for t >0.
Let m
i
denote the industry sales volume multiplied by the per-unit
profit margin for firm i. We formulate the optimal control problem faced
by the two firms as
Max
u
1
≥0
¸
V
1
(x
0
) =E


0
e
−r
1
t
[m
1
x(t ) −c
1
u
1
(t )
2
]dt
¸
, (12)
Max
u
2
≥0
¸
V
2
(x
0
) =E


0
e
−r
2
t
[m
2
(1−x(t )) −c
2
u
2
(t )
2
]dt
¸
, (13)
s.t., dx =[ρ
1
u
1
(x)

1−x −ρ
2
u
2
(x)

x −δ(2x −1)]dt +σ(x)dw, (14)
x(0) =x
0
∈[0, 1]. (15)
Each firm seeks to maximize its expected, discounted profit stream subject
to the market share dynamics. Note that, when the advertising expenditure
enters linearly in the dynamic equation, its cost in the objective function
is assumed to be quadratic as in Ref. 15. Equivalently, one can take the
square root of the advertising expenditure in the dynamic equation and
subtract the advertising expenditure linearly in the objective function (e.g.,
Ref. 19). See Refs. 26–27 for a discussion.
4. Analysis
To find the closed-loop Nash equilibrium strategies, we form the
Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equation for each firm,
r
1
V
1
=max
u
1
¸
m
1
x −c
1
u
2
1
+V

1

1
u
1

1−x
−ρ
2
u

2

x −δ(2x −1)) +σ(x)
2
V

1
/2
¸
, (16)
r
2
V
2
=max
u
2
¸
m
2
(1−x) −c
2
u
2
2
+V

2

1
u

1

1−x
−ρ
2
u
2

x −δ(2x −1)) +σ(x)
2
V

2
/2
¸
, (17)
where V

i
=dV
i
/dx, V

i
=d
2
V
i
/dx
2
and where u

1
and u

2
denote the com-
petitor’s advertising policies in (16) and (17), respectively. We obtain the
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 169
optimal feedback advertising decisions
u

1
(x) =max

0, V

1
(x)ρ
1

1−x/2c
1

, (18a)
u

2
(x) =max

0, −V

2
(x)ρ
2

x/2c
2

. (18b)
Since 0 ≤x ≤1 and since it is reasonable to expect V

1
≥0 and V

2
≤0, we
can reduce the advertising decisions (18) to
u

1
(x) =V

1
(x)ρ
1

1−x/2c
1
, (19a)
u

2
(x) =−V

2
(x)ρ
2

x/2c
2
, (19b)
which hold as we shall see later. Substituting (19) in (16) and (17), we
obtain the Hamilton-Jacobi equations
r
1
V
1
=m
1
x +V
2
1
ρ
2
1
(1−x)/4c
1
+V

1
V

2
ρ
2
2
x/2c
2
−V

1
δ(2x −1) +σ(x)
2
V

1
/2, (20)
r
2
V
2
=m
2
(1−x) +V
2
2
ρ
2
2
x/4c
2
+V

1
V

2
ρ
2
1
(1−x)/2c
1
−V

2
δ(2x −1) +σ(x)
2
V

2
/2. (21)
Following Ref. 15, we obtain the following forms for the value functions:
V
1

1

1
x, (22a)
V
2

2

2
(1−x). (22b)
These are inserted into (20) and (21) to determine the unknown coeffi-
cients α
1
, β
1
, α
2
, β
2
. Equating powers of x in Eq. (20) and powers of 1−x
in Eq. (21), the following four equations emerge, which can be solved for
the unknown coefficients:
r
1
α
1

2
1
ρ
2
1
/4c
1

1
δ, (23)
r
1
β
1
=m
1
−β
2
1
ρ
2
1
/4c
1
−β
1
β
2
ρ
2
2
/2c
2
−2β
1
δ, (24)
r
2
α
2

2
2
ρ
2
2
/4c
2

2
δ, (25)
r
2
β
2
=m
2
−β
2
2
ρ
2
2
/4c
2
−β
1
β
2
ρ
2
1
/2c
1
−2β
2
δ. (26)
Since for firms having different parameter values, the solutions to
these equations are complicated, we consider first the case of symmetric
firms in Section 4.1. The case of asymmetric firms will be dealt with in
Section 4.2.
170 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
4.1. Symmetric Firms. For the symmetric firm case,
α =α
1

2
,
β =β
1

2
,
m=m
1
=m
2
,
c =c
1
=c
2
,
ρ =ρ
1

2
,
r =r
1
=r
2
.
The four equations in (23)–(26) reduce to the following two:
rα =β
2
ρ
2
/4c +βδ, (27a)
rβ =m−3β
2
ρ
2
/4c −2βδ. (27b)
There are two solutions for β. One is negative, which clearly makes no
sense. Thus, the remaining positive solution is the correct one. This gives
also the corresponding α. The solution is
α =

(r −δ)(W −

W
2
+12Rm) +6Rm

/18Rr, (28a)
β =

W
2
+12Rm−W

/6R, (28b)
where
R=ρ
2
/4c, W =r +2δ.
We can see now that, with the solution for the value function, the con-
trols specified in Eq. (18) reduce to (19). This validates our choice of (19)
in deriving the value function.
Table 1 provides the comparative static results for the parameters
(proofs with the authors).
When ρ increases or c decreases (i.e., there is a marginal increase in
the value of advertising or a reduction in its cost), then as one might
expect, the amount of advertising increases. However, contrary to what
one would expect to see in a monopoly model of advertising, the value
function decreases. This occurs because, in this market, all advertising
occurs from competitive motivations, since the optimal advertising expen-
diture would be zero if a single firm were to own both identical products.
Advertising does not increase the size of the marketing pie, but affects
only its allocation. Thus, the increase in advertising causes a decrease
in the value function. The same logic does not apply when m increases
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 171
Table 1. Comparative statics for symmetric firms.
Variables Parameters
c ρ m δ r
α + − + + −
β + − + − −
u

− + + − −
V(x) + − + ? −
Legend: increase (+), decrease (−), ambiguous (?).
or r decreases. In these cases, it is true that the wasteful advertising is
increased, but it is also true that the size of the pie is increased.
The churn parameter δ reduces competitive intensity. Hence, it might
be expected that an increase in δ should increase the profitability by reduc-
ing advertising. In fact, only the constant α part of the value functions
increases, and it is ambiguous what happens to the value functions overall.
We can derive the exact conditions under which there is an increase or a
decrease in the value function of a firm due to an increase in δ. We find
that, if the market share of a firm is less than half, the effect on the firm’s
value function is always positive. However, if the market share of a firm is
greater than half, its value function can decrease, because of an increase in
δ, if the following inequality is satisfied:
x >
¸

(r +2δ)
2
+12Rm−(r +2δ)
¸

6r +1/2.
The reason is that, when a firm has a market share advantage over its
rival, δ helps the rival unequally by tending to equalize market shares.
4.2. Asymmetric Firms. We return now to the general case of asym-
metric firms. For asymmetric firms, we reexpress equations (23)–(26) in
terms of a single variable β
1
, which is determined by the solution to the
equations
3R
2
1
β
4
1
+2R
1
(W
1
+W
2

3
1
+

4R
2
m
2
−2R
1
m
1
−W
2
1
+2W
1
W
2

β
2
1
+2m
1
(W
1
−W
2

1
−m
2
1
=0, (29)
α
1

1

1
R
1
+δ)/r
1
, (30)
β
2
=(m
1
−β
2
1
R
1
−β
1
W
1
)/2β
1
R
2
, (31)
α
2

2

2
R
2
+δ)/r
2
, (32)
172 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
where
R
1

2
1
/4c
1
, R
2

2
2
/4c
2
, W
1
=r
1
+2δ, W
2
=r
2
+2δ.
Once we obtain the correct value of β
1
out of the four solutions of the
quartic equation (29), the other coefficients can be obtained by solving for
α
1
, β
2
, and then α
2
. The solution is given in Appendix A (Section 6).
We collect the main results of the analysis into Theorem 4.1.
Theorem 4.1. For the advertising game described by Eqs. (12)–(15):
(i) There exists a unique closed-loop Nash equilibrium solution to
the differential game. See proof in Appendix A, Section 6.
(ii) Optimal advertising is u

1
(x) = β
1
ρ
1

1−x/2c
1
, u

2
(x) =
β
2
ρ
2

1−y/2c
2
; in the symmetric firm case, β
1
= β
2
=
(

W
2
+12Rm − W)/6R; in the asymmetric firm case, β
1
and β
2
are given by (61) and (31).
We observe that the optimal advertising policy is to spend in propor-
tion to the competitor’s market share. Consistent with Ref. 19, the firm
that is in a disadvantageous position fights harder than its opponent and
should succeed in wrestling market share from the opponent. Spending
is decreasing in the own market share; thus, the advertising-to-sales ratio
is higher for the lower market share firm. As noted in the introduction,
many firms do advertising budgeting based on the affordable method, the
percentage-of-sales method, and the competitive-parity method (Refs. 5–6).
These methods suggest that the firm with lower market share should spend
less on advertising in contrast to the optimal advertising policy derived
here.
Table 2 provides the comparative static results for α, β, and V
1
(x)
with respect to the parameters, see proofs in Appendix B, Section 7.
Table 2. Comparative statics for asymmetric firms.
Variables Parameters
c
i
, c
j
ρ
i
, ρ
j
m
i
, m
j
δ r
i
, r
j
α
i
?, + ?, − +, − ? −, +
β
i
?, + ?, − +, − − −, +
u

i
−, + +, − +, − − −, +
V
i
(x) ?, + ?, − +, − ? −, +
Legend: increase (+), decrease (−), ambiguous (?).
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 173
A comparison of Tables 1 and 2 shows the following features. First,
due to the complexity of the asymmetric case, more effects are ambigu-
ous. Second, a change in the own parameters has the same effect in the
asymmetric case as a change in these parameters for the symmetric case.
This is to be expected, since the first-order effects likely dominate the sec-
ond-order effects, thus yielding the same results as in the symmetric case.
Third, a beneficial change in the own parameters (ρ
i
, c
i
, m
i
, r
i
) has a nega-
tive effect on the competitor’s profits. Fourth, the optimal advertising pol-
icy does not depend on the noisiness of the selling environment. Finally,
the results for the amount of advertising u

1
are unambiguous and follow
the same intuition as in the symmetric case.
4.3. Characterization of the Evolution Path. We examine next the
market share paths analytically. Inserting the optimal controls into Eqs.
(7)–(8), we obtain
dx =
¸
β
1
ρ
2
1
/2c
1
+δ −x

β
1
ρ
2
1
/2c
1

2
ρ
2
2
/2c
2
+2δ
¸
dt
+σ(x)dw, x(0) =x
0
, (33)
dy =
¸
β
2
ρ
2
2
/2c
2
+δ −y

β
1
ρ
2
1
/2c
1

2
ρ
2
2
/2c
2
+2δ
¸
dt
−σ(1−y)dw, y(0) =1−x
0
. (34)
To keep the intermediate steps simple, we make use of the notation
A
1
≡β
1
ρ
2
1
/2c
1
+δ, A
2
≡β
2
ρ
2
2
/2c
2
+δ,
and derive the results only for firm 1. Rewriting (33) as the stochastic inte-
gral equation
x(t ) =x
0
+

t
0
(A
1
−x(s)(A
1
+A
2
))ds +

t
0
σ(x)dw, (35)
it is obvious that the mean evolution path is independent of the nature of
the stochastic disturbance. Specifically,
E[x(t )] =x
0
+

t
0
(A
1
−E[x(s)](A
1
+A
2
))ds. (36)
This can be expressed as an ordinary differential equation in E[x(t )], with
the initial condition E[x(0)] =x
0
, whose solution is given by
E[x(t )] =exp[−(A
1
+A
2
)t ]x
0
+(1−exp[−(A
1
+A
2
)t ])A
1
/(A
1
+A
2
). (37)
An analogous result is obtained for firm 2. The long run equilibrium mar-
ket shares. ( ¯ x, ¯ y) are obtained by taking the limit as t →∞ and are given
by
¯ x =A
1
/(A
1
+A
2
), ¯ y =A
2
/(A
1
+A
2
). (38)
174 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
Thus, the expected market shares converge to the form resembling the
attraction models commonly used in marketing. However, while an attrac-
tion model would rate the attractiveness of each firm based on its lower
cost, higher productivity of advertising, and higher advertising, it would
exclude exogenous market phenomena such as churn.
To further characterize the evolution path, we can calculate the vari-
ance of the market shares at each point in time. A specification of the dis-
turbance function that satisfies (10) is required for this purpose. We use
σ(x)dw=σ

x(1−x)dw,
where σ is a positive constant.
An application of the It ˆ o formula to Eq. (33) provides the result,
d(x(t )
2
) =[2x(A
1
−x(A
1
+A
2
)) +σ
2
x(1−x)]dt
+2xσ

x(1−x)dw. (39)
Rewriting this as a stochastic integral, taking the expected value, and
rewriting as a differential equation, we get
(d/dt )E[x(t )
2
] =(2A
1

2
)E[x(t )] −(2A
1
+2A
2

2
)E[x(t )
2
]. (40)
Inserting the solution for E[x(t )] from (37), we obtain the following
first-order linear differential equation in the second moment E[x(t )
2
]:
dE[x
2
]/dt +(2A
1
+2A
2

2
)E[x
2
]
=A
1
(2A
1

2
)/(A
1
+A
2
)
+exp[−(A
1
+A
2
)t ]
¸
(2A
1

2
)x
0
−A
1
(2A
1

2
)/(A
1
+A
2
)
¸
, (41)
with the initial condition
E[x(0)
2
] =x
2
0
.
The solution is
E[x(t )
2
] =x
2
0
e
−2(A
1
+A
2

2
/2)t
+
A
1
(A
1

2
/2)
(A
1
+A
2

2
/2)(A
1
+A
2
)
×[1−e
−2(A
1
+A
2

2
/2)t
]
+
e
−(A
1
+A
2
)t
−e
−2(A
1
+A
2

2
/2)t
A
1
+A
2

2
×
¸
2(A
1

2
/2)x
0

2A
1
(A
1

2
/2)
A
1
+A
2

. (42)
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 175
We can calculate the convergence of the second moment as the influence
of the initial condition disappears. That is,
lim
t →∞
E[x(t )
2
] =A
1
(A
1

2
/2)/(A
1
+A
2

2
/2)(A
1
+A
2
). (43)
Written in this form, it becomes clear that, when σ =0, the expression is
just ¯ x
2
, so that the variance is appropriately zero in the absence of sto-
chastic effect. More generally, when σ =0,
E[x(t )
2
] =(E[x(t )])
2
holds for all t . For σ >0, the variance is given by the formula E[x(t )
2
] −
(E[x(t )])
2
, which allows us to find that, in the long run, the variance of
the market shares for both firms is given by
A
1
A
2
σ
2
/(2A
1
+2A
2

2
)(A
1
+A
2
)
2
. (44)
4.4. Illustration. Illustrative market shares may be obtained for
different parameter values. We choose the parameter values r = 0.05,
δ =0.01, symmetric margins m
1
=m
2
=1, asymmetric firm strengths R
1
=1,
R
2
=4, and an initial starting point at x(0) =0.5. In practice, a decision
calculus approach could be followed to obtain the parameter values. Using
Mathematica, we find that the only real positive root for the quartic poly-
nomial is β
1
=0.264545 and the corresponding β
2
=0.43069. Finally, we
specify
σ(x)dw=σ

x(1−x)dw, with σ
2
=0.5.
The procedure described in Zwillinger (Ref. 28, pp. 702, Eq. 182.3) is used;
i.e., for an SDE
dx(t ) =a(x(t ))dt +b(x(t ))dw(t ),
the numerical approximation
x(t +) =x(t ) +a(x(t ))+b(x(t ))

ς(t )
can be used, where the {ς(t )} are i.i.d. standard normal random variables.
The time step =0.01 is used.
Figure 1 shows a sample path. One can see that the path hovers
around the mean. It never stays on the mean as it is continuously dis-
rupted due to the Brownian motion. We can calculate a confidence inter-
val if the path is normally distributed around the mean. Then,
E[x(t )] ±1.96

E[x(t )
2
] −(E[x(t )])
2
176 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
Fig. 1. Market share trajectories given optimal advertising decisions.
provides the 95% confidence interval for the market share path. While we
know that the distribution is not normal, nevertheless, as Fig. 2 shows, the
proposed confidence interval does an adequate job of tracking the mar-
ket shares. Since the normal distribution is not bounded between zero and
one, the confidence interval may exceed the minimum or maximum mar-
ket share as happened in this case, In Section 4.5, we obtain the equi-
librium distribution of the market share, which enables us to provide the
exact confidence intervals for the equilibrium market shares.
This analysis has the value that it provides a diagnostic tool for man-
agement to handle market share fluctuations. Whereas minor fluctuations
within the confidence bands may call for cursory examination, overstep-
ping the bands indicates the need for a detailed review. It may be indica-
tive of a shift in the underlying market parameters and hence it requires
a reevaluation of the advertising spending policies. Also, the market share
fluctuations directly cause fluctuations in advertising spending according
to Theorem 4.1; hence, one can simulate the advertising budget as well.
4.5. Probability Distribution of Market Shares. In Section 4.4, we
mentioned that the probability densities of the market shares are not nec-
essarily normally distributed. This raises the question of whether the den-
sity functions can be determined explicitly or at least approximated. We
devote this section to examining this issue.
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 177
Fig. 2. Market share for firm 1: Normal density 95% confidence interval (dashed lines), and
equilibrium market share 95% confidence interval (dotted lines).
An important property of the solution x(t ) of an It ˆ o stochastic differ-
ential equation,
dx(t ) =a(x, t )dt +b(x, t )dw(t ), x(s) =z,
is that it is a Markov process. The transition probability of this Markov
process has a density p(t, x; s, z) for going from market share z at time s
to market share x at time t >s, which satisfies the Fokker-Planck equation,
∂p/∂t +(∂/∂x)(ap) −(1/2)(∂
2
/∂x
2
)(b
2
p) =0,
p(t, x; t, z) =δ(x −z).
For our problem, we shall obtain first and then attempt to solve the
Fokker-Planck equation. Firm 1’s stochastic differential equation from
(33) is
dx =(A
1
−(A
1
+A
2
)x)dt +σ

x(1−x)dw, x(0) =x
0
. (45)
The corresponding Fokker-Planck equation is given by
∂p/∂t +(∂/∂x)([A
1
−(A
1
+A
2
)x]p)
−(1/2)(∂
2
/∂x
2
)[σ
2
x(1−x)p] =0, (46)
178 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
which simplifies to
(∂p/∂t ) +[σ
2
x(x −1)/2]∂
2
p/∂x
2
+([2σ
2
−(A
1
+A
2
)]x +A
1
−σ
2
)∂p/∂x +[σ
2
−(A
1
+A
2
)]p=0. (47)
This partial differential equation could not be solved explicitly. Neverthe-
less, we will attempt to find the density of the steady-state market share
by lim
t →∞
p(t, x; s, z). Let f (x) denote this density, since it can be shown to
be independent of s, z, t .
To recapitulate, what we started off wanting to know was the density
p(t, x; 0, x
0
) of firm 1’s market share at time t , given that it starts at a
point x
0
at time zero. By looking for the long-run stationary probability
density of the market share, essentially we are willing to ignore the initial
transient part of the solution. For the density f (x), we can set ∂p/∂t =0
in (47) and obtain the second-order ordinary differential equation

2
x(x −1)/2] d
2
f /dx
2
+([2σ
2
−(A
1
+A
2
)]x +A
1
−σ
2
) df /dx
+[σ
2
−(A
1
+A
2
)]f =0. (48)
This is identifiable as a Gaussian hypergeometric equation with solution
(Ref. 29, pp. 234)
f (x) =x
(2A
1

2
−1)
(1−x)
(2A
2

2
−1)
×

C
1
+C
2

x
−2A
1

2
(1−x)
−2A
2

2
dx

. (49)
To determine the constants of integration, we can employ the follow-
ing two properties. First, the density should integrate to 1; second, the
expected value of the market share should be ¯ x, which we have already
calculated is equal to A
1
/(A
1
+A
2
). The result is given in the following
theorem.
Theorem 4.2. The density of the stationary distribution of a firm’s
market share is given by the beta density. For firm 1,
f (x) =
(2A
1

2
+2A
2

2
)
(2A
1

2
)(2A
2

2
)
x
2A
1

2
−1
(1−x)
2A
2

2
−1
, (50)
where
(s) =


0
x
s−1
e
−x
dx, s >0,
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 179
is the gamma function. For firm 2, by symmetry, f (y) is obtained by
interchanging x with y and A
1
with A
2
in (50).
Proof. The density integrates to 1 by definition, while the mean of
the beta distribution is given by A
1
/(A
1
+A
2
). Thus, all the required con-
ditions are satisfied.
It can be verified that the variance of the beta distribution matches
the expression in (44) obtained by using the It ˆ o formula.
We now return to the illustrative example of Section 4.4. Inserting the
parameter values
A
1
=0.539, A
2
=3.46, σ
2
=0.5,
the beta density is
f (x) =292.39x
1.156
(1−x)
12.84
. (51)
We compute the 95% confidence bounds to be l = 0.02 and m = 0.33.
These are sketched in Fig. 2. They provide a more accurate 95% confi-
dence interval for the equilibrium market share of firm 1 than by assuming
a normal distribution. The confidence intervals for firm 2 can be obtained
in a similar manner.
5. Conclusions
We examine a dynamic duopoly with stochastic disturbances and
employ closed-loop methods to solve the problem. The model is ana-
lyzed using stochastic differential game theory and explicit solutions are
obtained. The effects of several different parameters are discussed for sym-
metric and asymmetric firms.
The paper extends the work of Sethi (Ref. 15) to include competitive
advertising response and work of Sorger (Ref. 19) by including stochas-
tic analysis and a churn term in the dynamics that is consistent with the
original Vidale-Wolfe formulation and which ensures that, in the absence
of competitive advertising, the market shares will converge. The effect of
churn can be decomposed into two parts: one is to reduce competition by
making advertising less effective, hence causing a decrease in equilibrium
advertising; the other is to disproportionately reduce share of the higher
market share firm. Thus, higher churn benefits a firm with low market
share, but has ambiguous effects for a higher share firm.
180 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
A simple rule describes the optimal advertising control, which is that
it should be proportional to the square root of the opponent market share
(Theorem 4.1). Sections 4.1 and 4.2 are devoted to determining the pro-
portionality constant, particularly its endogenous component β
i
, and to
obtaining an analytical expression for it. While it is given by a simple
expression when the firms are symmetric, it is not simple to state the pro-
portionality constant for asymmetric firms. An explicit formula is provided
in Appendix A, Section 6. Furthermore, the dependence of β
i
as well as
the amount of advertising is provided by means of comparative statics.
In Section 4.3, we characterize the evolution path by using stochastic
calculus to provide the mean and variance of the market shares. The for-
mer resembles an attraction model. In Section 4.5, we examine the prob-
ability distribution for the market shares by solving the Fokker-Planck
equation in the limiting case and showing that it is the beta distribution.
The fact that these commonly used forms for market share emerge endoge-
nously from the analysis validates additionally our model assumptions. An
illustration demonstrated the usability of the analysis in terms of tracking
the market shares (Section 4.4).
A limitation of the analysis is that it is restricted to duopoly compe-
tition, whereas many markets are characterized by more then two com-
petitors (Refs. 30–31). Future research should examine the possibility of
extending the present model to oligopoly markets. Extending the model
to incorporate decision variables such as price is also relevant. Finally,
the comparative statics presented in the paper represent hypotheses for
empirical testing which deserves further attention.
6. Appendix A: Proof of Uniqueness of Solution
We want to show that there exists a unique solution to the differential
game. This implies showing that there exists a unique β
1
>0 that satisfies
the quartic equation (29). We express (29) as
F(β
1
) ≡β
4
1

1
β
3
1

2
β
2
1

3
β
1
−κ
4
=0, (52)
where
κ
1
=2(W
1
+W
2
)/3R
1
, (53a)
κ
2
=

4m
2
R
2
−2m
1
R
1
−W
2
1
+2W
1
W
2

/3R
2
1
, (53b)
κ
3
=2m
1
(W
1
−W
2
)/3R
2
1
, (53c)
κ
4
=m
2
1
/3R
2
1
. (53d)
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 181
Every quartic equation has four roots. Excluding the fortuitous cases,
where two or more roots are equal, the following results are easily
observed:
(A1) When β
1
→±∞, F(β
1
) →∞; when β
1
= 0, F(β
1
) < 0. Since
F(β
1
) is differentiable, it is continuous. Thus, it must cross the
x-axis at least twice ensuring at least one positive real root and
one negative real root. If there are only two real roots, one will
be positive and one negative. If all four roots are real, they will
be either three positive and one negative or three negative and
one positive.
(A2) In the case of three real positive roots, ordering them from
the smallest to the largest, the slope at the second largest root
must be negative. To see this, write
F(β
1
) =(β
1
−β
1
(1))(β
1
−β
1
(2))(β
1
−β
1
(3))(β
1
−β
1
(4)),
where
β
1
(1) <0, β
1
(2) >0, β
1
(3) >β
1
(2), β
1
(4) >β
1
(3)
are the four roots. Then, the slope at β
1
(3),
F


1
)|
β
1

1
(3)
=(β
1
(3) −β
1
(1))(β
1
(3) −β
1
(2))(β
1
(3) −β
1
(4)),
is negative.
(A3) We can calculate the slope F


1
) directly from (52) and eval-
uate it at any positive real root. The result is
F


1
)|
β
1
=F
−1
(0)
=2
¸
3R
2
1
β
4
1
+R
1
(W
1
+W
2

3
1
+m
1
W
2
β
1
+m
1
(m
1
−W
1
β
1
)
¸

1
>0. (54)
It follows from points (A2) and (A3) above that there is only
one real positive root and hence a unique solution to the
differential game. To obtain an explicit solution, we utilize the
182 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
Mathematica 4.1 software to generate four solutions to (52):
β
1
(1) =−κ
1
/4−g/2−0.5
×


2
1
/4−2κ
2
−g
2
+

κ
3
1
−4κ
1
κ
2
+8κ
3

/4g, (55)
β
1
(2) =−κ
1
/4−g/2+0.5
×


2
1
/4−2κ
2
−g
2
+

κ
3
1
−4κ
1
κ
2
+8κ
3

/4g, (56)
β
1
(3) =−κ
1
/4+g/2−0.5
×


2
1
/4−2κ
2
−g
2

κ
3
1
−4κ
1
κ
2
+8κ
3

/4g, (57)
β
1
(4) =−κ
1
/4+g/2+0.5
×


2
1
/4−2κ
2
−g
2

κ
3
1
−4κ
1
κ
2
+8κ
3

/4g, (58)
where the two intermediate terms g and h are defined as
g ≡

κ
2
1
/4−2κ
2
/3+2
1/3

κ
2
2
−3κ
1
κ
3
−12κ
4

/3h+h/32
1/3
, (59)
h≡
¸

3
2
−9κ
1
κ
2
κ
3
+27κ
2
3
−27κ
2
1
κ
4
+72κ
2
κ
4
+

−4

κ
2
2
−3κ
1
κ
3
−12κ
4

3
+


3
2
−9κ
1
κ
2
κ
3
+27κ
2
3
−27κ
2
1
κ
4
+72κ
2
κ
4

2
¸
1/3
. (60)
We pick β
1
as the only real positive solution out of the four roots, i.e.,
β
1

1
(i

), where i

={i ∈{1, 2, 3, 4}|β
1
(i) >0}. (61)
While i

may depend on the data, there will only be one i

in every case.
7. Appendix B: Outline of Proof of Comparative Statics for Table 2
(B1) To obtain comparative static results for β
i
, we define
G
1

1
, β
2
) ≡m
1
−β
2
1
ρ
2
1
/4c
1
−β
1
β
2
ρ
2
2
/2c
2
−β
1
(r
1
+2δ) =0, (62)
G
2

1
, β
2
) ≡m
2
−β
2
2
ρ
2
2
/4c
2
−β
1
β
2
ρ
2
1
/2c
1
−β
2
(r
2
+2δ) =0. (63)
JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004 183
Then, for any parameter θ, the implicit function theorem may
be written as

∂β
1
∂θ
∂β
2
∂θ

=−(1/)
×

¸
¸
¸

β
2
ρ
2
2
2c
2
+
β
1
ρ
2
1
2c
1
+r
2
+2δ

β
1
ρ
2
2
2c
2
β
2
ρ
2
1
2c
1

β
1
ρ
2
1
2c
1
+
β
2
ρ
2
2
2c
2
+r
1
+2δ

×

∂G
1
∂θ
∂G
2
∂θ

, (64)
where >0. The comparative static results for changes in the
parameters c
2
, m
1
, m
2
, r
1
, r
2
, ρ
2
, δ follow in a straightforward
manner. However, the cases for c
1
and ρ
1
could not be signed.
(B2) For comparative statics for u

1
, we insert
u

1

1
ρ
1

1−x/2c
1
,
u

2

2
ρ
2

x/2c
1
into (62)–(63) to obtain G
1
(u

1
, u

2
) and G
2
(u

1
, u

2
). Then, the
implicit function theorem can be written as

∂u

1
/∂θ
∂u

2
/∂θ

=−(1/)
×

¸
¸
¸

2c
2
u
2
x
+
2c
2
u
1
ρ
1
ρ
2

1−x

x
+
2c
2
(r
2
+2δ)
ρ
2

x

2c
1
u
1
ρ
2
ρ
1

1−x

x
2c
2
u
2
ρ
1
ρ
2

1−x

x

2c
1
u
1
1−x
+
2c
1
u
2
ρ
2
ρ
1

1−x

x
+
2c
1
(r
1
+2δ)
ρ
1

1−x

×

∂G
1
/∂θ
∂G
2
/∂θ

,
(65)
where it can be shown that > 0. The calculations for the
results reported in Table 2 follow in a straightforward manner.
(B3) For α
1
, we note from Eq. (30) that, in many cases, α
1
will have
the same comparative statics as β
1
. These relationships are as
follows:
∂α
1
/∂c
2
>0, ∂α
1
/∂m
1
>0, ∂α
1
/∂m
2
<0, ∂α
1
/∂r
1
<0,
∂α
1
/∂r
2
>0, ∂α
1
/∂ρ
2
<0. (66)
184 JOTA: VOL. 123, NO. 1, OCTOBER 2004
the cases for c
1
, ρ
1
, δ are unclear.
(B4) The unambiguous results for V
1
occur when comparative stat-
ics for α
1
and β
1
are in the same direction, which is true for
all parameters except c
1
, ρ
1
, δ.
References
1. Vidale, M. L., and Wolfe, H. B., An Operations Research Study of Sales
Response to Advertising, Operations Research, Vol. 5, pp. 370–381, 1957.
2. Sethi, S. P., Dynamic Optimal Control Models in Advertising: A Survey, SIAM
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