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Caroll Capital Hed
Carrol Capital

Ads in fast-forward

S. Adam Brasel (at left), assistant professor of marketing, and James Gips, Jack and Pamela Egan Chair in Computer Science, have found that viewers who fast-forward commercials actually pay more attention and can be influenced by brand images they view for only a fraction of a second.

Building on prior work in visual marketing and perceptual psychology, they tracked the eye movements of viewers to determine how digital video recorders affect the perception of commercials. “Breaking Through Fast-Forwarding: Brand Information and Visual Attention,” was published in the November Journal of Marketing and reported on in The Economist.

Brasel and Gips found that whether viewers fast-forward themselves or view commercials that are automatically fast-forwarded, they pay more attention to ads and focus heavily on the center of the screen. As a result, viewers attend to centrally located brand information at a greater rate than brand information placed elsewhere, which is almost completely ignored.

When fast-forwarding, a viewer only sees about one out of every 20 frames, reducing the opportunity for brand identification to one and one half seconds in a 30-second spot. Brasel and Gips also discovered that despite this abbreviated exposure and complete loss of audio, advertisements with brand information at center screen can have a positive effect on a consumer’s brand attitude, behavioral intent, and actual choices.

They showed viewers two ads of different British candy bars, one heavily branded, the other not. After leaving the lab, the individuals were invited to choose a candy bar. Twice as many viewers chose the heavily branded bar as the less branded bar.

“We created a massive shift in behavior from a commercial lasting just over a second and a half,” says Brasel. “It’s clear that just because an ad is being fast-forwarded, doesn’t mean it is a wasted ad.”

Brasel’s primary research interest is visual marketing, and he uses eye-tracker technology to explore issues such as how consumers process promotional information in interactive environments. Gips develops technologies to allow people with profound disabilities to access the computer, including EagleEyes and the Camera Mouse, which allow people to control the computer by moving their eyes and heads, respectively.