NBC Universal compared the responses of viewers who watched the ads live with those who fast-forwarded through them, measuring their eye movements, heart rate and sweat.
The results of the study, reported by the Wall Street Journal, showed that the ads people remembered the most shared several common features: they concentrated the action and the brand's logo in the middle of the screen, they did not feature multiple scene changes, audio or text to tell the story, and often used familiar characters.
The rise in the number of digital video recorders, such as BSkyB's Sky+ boxes in the UK and TiVo in the US, has presented advertisers with a challenge. BSkyB reported earlier this month that it had experienced record sales growth of Sky+ boxes, up 16% to 3.1m.
A trailer for the third Bourne film 'The Bourne Ultimatum' starring Matt Damon, was one of the most recalled ads -- reportedly because viewers were already familiar with the film and the trailer focused on Damon's celebrity appeal.
Part of the reason viewers speeding through ads can recall them is because they are paying more attention to the screen than those watching the ads live.
However, viewers who watched the ads live were much more likely to recall an ad a day later. Around 70% of the live viewers remembered the ads the next day, compared to only 25% of viewers who sped through them.
Mike Hess, global research director at OMD, said: "I don't think the industry is about to create a whole round of commercials around DVR viewing. But if you're sensitive to that, there are some things that you can try to do better."
He added that it could lead to multiple edits of ads, with advertisers working with their agencies to identify what executions work best.
The study, which was conducted by Innerscope Research, included 100 people who watched 24 ads during the pilot of NBC show 'Journeyman'. Most of the ads had already aired.
Read Gordon's Republic blog post on Matt Damon, Sarah Silverman and YouTube here.