To Zap or Not to Zap: How to Insert the Brand in TV Commercials to Minimize Avoidance

Thales Teixeira 1 , Michel Wedel 2 ,  and Rik Pieters 3
  • 1 Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts 02163
  • 2 Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA,
  • 3 Tilburg University, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Marketing, Tilburg, the Netherlands


Vast sums of money are still spent on TV advertising. In an environment of rising perviewer rates for advertisers and increased skipping past ads by consumers it is necessary for advertising managers to understand the determinants of commercial avoidance. In order to optimize brand exposure they need information on how to best retain consumers’ attention from moment-to-moment during television advertising. This large-scale eye tracking study shows that the decision to zap or not to zap depends on how the brand is presented within the commercial. First, the ability of a commercial to concentrate consumers’ visual attention reduced avoidance significantly. Second, the likelihood that viewers will zap can be decreased with a “pulsing strategy” in which brand images are shown more frequently for a shorter period of time within the commercial instead of longer at the beginning or end.

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