NEW YORK: Brands can help mitigate the impact of "commercial zapping" – where viewers skip ads during TV shows they've recorded – by using more considered approaches to scheduling and creativity, according to a paper published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

An Australian research team from Perth's Curtin University suggest in the latest edition of JAR that there is an alternative to this type of message elimination.

Their recommendations, in fact, echo the strategy of digital marketers who seek to minimise online ad blocking: namely, produce quality advertising and audiences will welcome your message.

The controversy over the impact of commercial zapping is close to 40 years old. In "Predictors of Commercial Zapping During Live Prime-Time Television: An Observation-Based Study Identifies Factors That Drive TV Channel Switching" – part of a "What We Know About Television Advertising Now" section of JAR – Stephen Richard Dix and Ian Phau report on their findings from what happens in a viewing room when a message comes on the screen.

The authors recognise that advertisers can't eliminate the potential of message hopping altogether. But they do offer counsel on how brands can help ensure viewership: "This study identified that considerable chunks of commercial time are missed by viewers who are off channel during commercial breaks as a result of channel switching. Viewers were observed to be off channel for 38.06% of the commercial break.

"There is no evidence to suggest that commercial zapping is cognitively driven ... Advertisers can restrict commercial zapping by limiting levels of irritation and repetition in their creative strategy and by restraining exposure in their scheduling strategy."

The authors conclude, "One could argue that commercial zapping dilutes the best efforts of media planners to direct their clients' advertising expenditure toward relevant target audiences … Planners, agencies, and other stakeholders should strive to minimize the stimuli that may trigger commercial zapping."

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by Warc staff