Consumers are very good at screening out advertising, paying little or no active attention.
Much radio advertising is ‘wallpaper’ with little active attention paid to the advertising. We flick past much magazine, newspaper and web advertising. TV advertising also often just washes over us and there is active, physical avoidance too.
Now this isn’t to say that engagement is essential for advertising to affect consumers’ memory structures. It isn’t. But some active processing is helpful.
And this is where TV has a simple physical advantage, as do cinema ads, and some radio. Consumers simply spend more time with the ad. Consumers consumption of individual ads varies, situation to situation, mood to mood, etc. It can vary second by second. Out in the real world (away from forced exposure tests) longer ads work better largely because they have more chance of catching some attention, not the full 30 seconds but part of it.
Zapping (fast forwarding) sounds like a major threat to this effect, but it isn’t because the action of fast-forwarding requires consumers to pay more attention to the screen.
Another marketing implication is that viewers will seldom really watch the whole ad, in the sense of not paying attention to it all the way through. Remember this when designing and evaluating your new advertisement. Will it work if consumers only see a fraction of it ?