Personal video recorders may not have as disastrous an effect on UK TV advertising as initially feared, according to a report by London media agency Starcom.

Industry Cassandras have long predicted that the rise of the new technology will severely impact on ad awareness as viewers choose to fast-forward through commercial breaks.

But it seems this is not the case. According to Clare de Burca, Starcom's head of proprietary research, the fewer ads seen by consumers, the greater the impact as they are free from 'advertising clutter'.

Starcom polled seven hundred adults in homes with PVRs such as Sky+ alongside 700 non-PVR Sky households. It asked specifically about sixty recent TV ads and 18 programme sponsorships.

Although Sky+ viewers saw 30% fewer ads than digital consumers, the survey revealed only a 17% drop in ad awareness levels in Sky+ homes - half the level expected.

The fall in awareness was greater for ads screened on Britain's largest commercial channel ITV, and the report cautions that "the premium that advertisers pay to use it may be difficult to sustain in the new PVR future".

Nevertheless, Starcom claims that "TV advertising is more resilient than anticipated. The fact is people don't actively dislike TV ads - they just often prefer to watch their favourite programmes uninterrupted by programme breaks."

Programme sponsorship was found to be one way around the problem of ad avoidance, as sponsorship awareness fell by just 4% in Sky+ homes compared with digital households.

Other tips for marketers highlighted in the report include advertising on multiple channels, as PVR viewers watch a broader range; and utilising the first and last ad slots in a commercial break.

Expanding the length of an ad from its traditional 30 seconds was, however, reported to be ineffective. "All the campaigns we saw that used longer commercial lengths got no advantage from it at all," says de Burca.

Data sourced from: Media Guardian; additional content by WARC staff