Thales S. Teixeira

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Thales Teixeira is an assistant professor in the Marketing Unit. He holds a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of Michigan. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in statistics at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Before joining HBS, Professor Teixeira was an independent quantitative marketing consultant to technology and financial services companies, among them Microsoft, HP, and Prudential. He researches the Economics of Attention.

His research domain comprises advertising and the Economics of Attention, particularly within TV and Internet videos. With developments in information technology and telecom, videos – both commercial and noncommercial – will become pervasive in many activities of daily life. Discovering how to communicate effectively through videos will therefore become increasingly important over time.

Professor Teixeira is also a proponent of using eye-tracking and facial-tracking technologies to engineer the design of video communications moment-to-moment in order to attract and retain viewer attention. Among his most recent findings, published in Marketing Science, is the optimality of what he terms brand pulsing (brief and frequent insertions of the brand logo on-screen) in TV commercials as a means to minimize ad skipping.

Journal Articles

  1. Television Advertising and Online Shopping

    Media multitasking competes with television advertising for consumers' attention, but it also may facilitate immediate and measurable response to some advertisements. This paper explores whether and how television advertising influences online shopping. We construct a massive dataset spanning $3.4 billion in spending by 20 brands, measures of brands' website traffic and transactions, and ad content measures for 1,224 commercials. We use a quasi-experimental design to estimate whether and how TV advertising influences changes in online shopping within two-minute pre/post windows of time. We use non-advertising competitors' online shopping in a difference-in-differences approach to measure the same effects in two-hour windows around the time of the ad. The findings indicate that television advertising does influence online shopping and that advertising content plays a key role. Action-focus content increases direct website traffic and sales. Information-focus and emotion-focus ad content actually reduce website traffic while simultaneously increasing purchases, with a net effect on sales that is positive for most brands. These results imply that brands seeking to attract multitaskers' attention and dollars must select their advertising copy carefully.

    Keywords: advertising; content analysis; difference-in-differences; internet; media multitasking; online purchases; Advertising; Advertising Industry; United States;


    Liaukonyte, Jura, Thales S. Teixeira, and Kenneth Wilbur. "Television Advertising and Online Shopping." Marketing Science (forthcoming). View Details
  2. Why, When, and How Much to Entertain Consumers in Advertisements?: A Web-based Facial Tracking Field Study

    The presence of positive entertainment (e.g., visual imagery, upbeat music, humor) in TV advertisements can make them more attractive and persuasive. However, little is known about the downsides of using too much entertainment. This research focuses on why, when, and how much to entertain consumers in TV advertisements. We collected data in a large-scale field study using 82 ads with various levels of entertainment shown to 178 consumers in their homes and workplaces. Using a novel web-based face tracking system, we continuously measure consumers' smile responses as well as their viewing interest and purchase intent. A simultaneous Bayesian hierarchical model is estimated to assess how different levels of entertainment affect purchases by endogenizing viewing interest. We find that entertainment has an inverted U-shape relationship with purchase intent. Importantly, we separate entertainment into that which comes before the brand versus that which comes after and find that the former is positively associated with purchase intent while the latter is not.

    Keywords: face-tracking; entertainment; television; advertising; purchase intent; commercials; facial expressions; marketing communication; marketing; Advertising; Television Entertainment; Marketing; Advertising Industry;


    Teixeira, Thales, Rosalind Picard, and Rana el Kaliouby. "Why, When, and How Much to Entertain Consumers in Advertisements? A Web-based Facial Tracking Field Study." Marketing Science 33, no. 6 (November–December 2014): 809–827. View Details
  3. Optimizing the Amount of Entertainment in Advertising: What's So Funny about Tracking Reactions to Humor?

    Humor and other entertaining content, as opposed to demonstrations of product features and "selling," are increasingly used in advertising, such as TV commercials, to attract and keep consumers' attention. This study uses facial tracking to explore how marketers can best use entertainment in ads to increase their effectiveness in increasing intent to purchase. The findings suggest that the optimal amount of entertainment differs by type of entertainment and target group, but not by product category, and confirms that the funniest ads are not necessarily the most effective.

    Keywords: advertising; advertising content; entertainment; face perception; Advertising; Online Advertising; Television Entertainment; Consumer Products Industry; Food and Beverage Industry;


    Teixeira, Thales S., and Horst Stipp. "Optimizing the Amount of Entertainment in Advertising: What's So Funny about Tracking Reactions to Humor?" Journal of Advertising Research 53, no. 3 (September 2013): 286–296. View Details
  4. How to Profit from 'Lean Advertising'

    This article introduces the concept of Lean Advertising, i.e., how to use non-traditional approaches to create and distribute advertising using extremely low-cost approaches online. A framework for Lean Advertising is proposed that identifies the four ways in which companies can execute marketing with low budgets by (1) creating content themselves, (2) distributing content themselves (e.g., inbound marketing), (3) outsourcing content creation (e.g., via crowdsourcing) or (4) outsourcing content distribution (e.g., viral marketing). Benefits and challenges of these four approaches are discussed and their costs are compared to that of traditional mass media using ad agency content creation.

    Keywords: viral advertising; viral ads; advertising; online marketing; Lean advertising; Online Advertising; Advertising; Advertising Industry;


    Teixeira, Thales S. "How to Profit from 'Lean Advertising'." Harvard Business Review 91, no. 6 (June 2013): 23–25. View Details
  5. Emotion-induced Engagement in Internet Video Ads

    This study shows how advertisers can leverage emotion and attention to engage consumers in watching Internet video ads. In a controlled experiment, joy and surprise were assessed through automated facial expression detection for a sample of ads. Concentration of attention was assessed through eye tracking and retention of viewers by recording zapping behavior. This allows tests of predictions about the interplay of these emotions and inter-individual attention differences at each point in time during exposure. Surprise and joy effectively concentrate attention and retain viewers. But importantly, the level rather than the velocity of surprise impact attention concentration most, whereas the velocity rather than the level of joy impact viewer retention most. The effect of joy is asymmetric, with higher gains for increases than losses for decreases. Based on these findings, the authors develop representative emotion trajectories to support ad design and testing.

    Keywords: Behavior; Online Advertising; Emotions;


    Teixeira, Thales S., Michel Wedel, and Rik Pieters. "Emotion-induced Engagement in Internet Video Ads ." Journal of Marketing Research (JMR) 49, no. 2 (April 2012): 144–159. View Details
  6. To Zap or Not to Zap: How to Insert the Brand in TV Commercials to Minimize Avoidance

    Huge amounts of money are spent on TV advertising. In an environment of rising per-viewer 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.

    Keywords: Brands and Branding; Television Entertainment; Advertising; Decisions;


    Teixeira, Thales S., Michel Wedel, and Rik Pieters. "To Zap or Not to Zap: How to Insert the Brand in TV Commercials to Minimize Avoidance." GfK Marketing Intelligence Review 4, no. 1 (May 2012): 14–23. View Details
  7. The New Science of Viral Ads

    It's the holy grail of digital marketing: the viral ad, a pitch that large numbers of viewers decide to share with family and friends. Several techniques derived from new technology can help advertisers attain this. In our research, two colleagues and I use infrared eye-tracking scanners to determine exactly what people are looking at when they watch video ads. We also use a system that analyzes facial expressions to reveal what viewers are feeling. These technologies make it possible to isolate elements that cause people to stop watching and to find ones that keep them engaged. In addition, they make it possible to determine what kinds of ads are most likely to be shared and what types of people are most likely to share them. Here are five big problems online advertisers face, along with solutions that have emerged from our research.

    Keywords: Online Advertising; Technology; Research; System; Marketing; Emotions; Television Entertainment;


    Teixeira, Thales. "The New Science of Viral Ads." Harvard Business Review 90, no. 3 (March 2012): 25–27. View Details
  8. Moment-to-moment Optimal Branding in TV Commercials: Preventing Avoidance by Pulsing

    We develop a conceptual framework for understanding the impact that branding activity (the audio-visual representation of brands) and consumers' dispersion of attention have on their moment-to-moment avoidance decisions during television advertising. It formalizes this in a Dynamic Probit Model and estimates it with MCMC methods. Data on commercial avoidance through zapping along with eye tracking on 31 commercials for nearly 2000 participants are used to calibrate the model. New, simple metrics of attention dispersion are shown to strongly predict avoidance. Independent of this, central on-screen brand positions but not brand size further promote commercial avoidance. Based on the model estimation, we optimize the branding activity under marketing control for ads in the sample to reduce commercial avoidance. This reveals that pulsing the brand presence—while keeping total brand exposure constant—decreases commercial avoidance significantly. Both numerical simulations and a controlled experiment using regular and edited commercials provide evidence of the benefits of brand pulsing to ward off commercial avoidance. Implications for advertising management and theory are addressed.

    Keywords: Advertising; Decision Choices and Conditions; Television Entertainment; Brands and Branding; Consumer Behavior; Mathematical Methods;


    Teixeira, Thales S., Michel Wedel, and Rik Pieters. "Moment-to-moment Optimal Branding in TV Commercials: Preventing Avoidance by Pulsing." Marketing Science 29, no. 5 (September–October 2010): 783–804. (Lead Article. Featured in HBS Working Knowledge, Financial Times, and in a TV interview by Globo News (in Portuguese)) View Details

Working Papers

  1. The Decoupling Effect of Digital Disruptors

    While the Internet's first wave of disruption was marked by the unbundling of digital content, the second wave, decoupling, promises to generate more casualties in an even broader array of industries. Digital start-ups are disrupting traditional businesses by inserting themselves at every juncture in the customer's consumption chain. By decoupling—the act of separating activities that people are used to co-consuming—new digital businesses are disrupting retailing, telecom and other industries. Decoupling allows consumers to benefit from the value created at a lower cost or effort compared to what is delivered by traditional businesses. For those companies, the only solutions are to either recouple activities or rebalance to create and capture value (i.e., revenues) from both activities separately. Here, digital technologies can be seen as an instrument that will both disrupt traditional business models and potentially preserve them.

    Keywords: Disruptive Innovation; Information Technology;


    Teixeira, Thales S., and Peter Jamieson. "The Decoupling Effect of Digital Disruptors." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-031, October 2014. View Details
  2. The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention: Why You Should Care, and What You Can Do about It

    Attention is a necessary ingredient for effective advertising. The market for consumer attention (or "eyeballs") has become so competitive that attention can be regarded as a currency. The rising cost of this ingredient in the marketplace is causing marketers to waste money on costly attention sources or reduce their investment in promoting their brands. Instead, they should be thinking about how to "buy" cheaper attention and how to use it more effectively. Research in the emerging field of the Economics of Attention shows how this can be achieved. Here, I argue that, irrespective of the means to attain it, attention always comes at a price. I also show that the cost of attention has increased dramatically (seven- to nine-fold) in the last two decades. To counteract this trend I propose novel approaches to lower its cost or use attention more efficiently by adopting multitasker-tailored ads, Lean Advertising, and Viral Ad Symbiosis. To guide the choice of which approach to take, I propose the Attention-contingent Advertising Strategy, a framework to match the most effective approach to the quality of attention contingently available. As the value of attention rises, marketers need to become better managers of attention. This paper is intended to help them in this regard.

    Keywords: Strategy; Advertising;


    Teixeira, Thales S. "The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention: Why You Should Care, and What You Can Do about It." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-055, January 2014. View Details

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. Managing Multi-Media Audiences at WHDH (Boston)

    WHDH's Channel 7 News rose to the #1 position in Boston-area news broadcasting through its embrace of an innovative format and for affiliating with NBC. Since the early 2000s, however, other news programs had copied their format, and young audiences had begun to use the Internet to get their news, dramatically cutting ratings and ad revenue. Station owner Edmund Ansin and general manager Chris Wayland faced a choice of whether to use the TV news to push viewers to the station's website and monetize online, or use an online presence to build loyalty to Channel 7 and thus drive viewers to TV.

    Keywords: digital marketing; online news; television advertising; attention economics; cross-media efforts; Competition; Online Technology; Consumer Behavior; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Change Management; Marketing Strategy; Decision Choices and Conditions; Online Advertising; Television Entertainment; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Boston;


    Teixeira, Thales, and V. Kasturi Rangan. "Managing Multi-Media Audiences at WHDH (Boston)." Harvard Business School Case 515-037, September 2014. View Details
  2. Showrooming at Best Buy

    Best Buy is a consumer electronics retailer with nearly 2,000 stores worldwide. In 2012, the rising popularity of price-matching apps for mobile phones made price differences between retailers transparent, online and offline. Shoppers' desire to test electronics first-hand before purchase drove them to use Best Buy stores as "showrooms" to see new products and then search for better deals on their smartphones. This case examines how brick-and-mortar stores battle showrooming through changes in product assortment, the development of apps, loyalty programs and changes in pricing policy. The case asks whether Best Buy can survive by permanently price-matching their online-only competitors, primarily Amazon, despite having higher costs.

    Keywords: Competition; Price; Consumer Behavior; Software; Mobile Technology; Retail Industry; Electronics Industry;


    Teixeira, Thales, and Elizabeth Anne Watkins. "Showrooming at Best Buy." Harvard Business School Case 515-019, August 2014. View Details
  3. Managing Online Reviews on TripAdvisor

    In 2013, TripAdvisor was the most visited online travel site in the world. It hosted a massive repository of information on hotels and travel services, and provided millions of reviews written by consumers. Consumers were becoming increasingly motivated to read and write reviews on TripAdvisor, largely as a means of informing other consumers about their personal experiences, but also to praise or complain to hotels about their experiences. In response, hotels were investing more time and marketing budget on managing the quantity, quality and location of online reviews, with particular attention paid to TripAdvisor.

    Keywords: digital marketing; online word-of-mouth; online reviews; hotels; travel industry; Online Technology; Marketing Communications; Marketing Reference Programs; Online Advertising; Customer Satisfaction; Accommodations Industry; Travel Industry;


    Teixeira, Thales, and Leora Kornfeld. "Managing Online Reviews on TripAdvisor." Harvard Business School Case 514-071, December 2013. View Details
  4. YouTube for Brands

    This case examines the changes employed by YouTube to make the massively popular site more attractive to brands. Building from its base of amateur, user-generated content, YouTube had turned to experimenting with professionally-made content and organizing its videos into channels. But it still struggled when it came to capturing advertising dollars to its online video platform. The social video website wants to be a 'brand safe' platform which major marketers use to advertise their video ads. Should major brands switch a significant portion of their TV advertising budget to online ads on YouTube?

    Keywords: digital marketing; marketing; brands and branding; Online Technology; Decision Choices and Conditions; Online Advertising; Brands and Branding; Advertising Industry; Motion Pictures and Video Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry;


    Teixeira, Thales, and Leora Kornfeld. "YouTube for Brands." Harvard Business School Case 514-048, January 2014. (Revised May 2014.) View Details
  5. Freemium Pricing at Dropbox

    Online storage company Dropbox provided remote-storage over the internet of any type of computer file, along with file sharing, synchronization and backup. Using a freemium pricing strategy whereby a basic service was free-of-charge and a premium service was paid, Dropbox grew into a business with 200 million users. But only an estimated 1.6 to 4.0% of its users provided any revenue to the company. This case examines how Dropbox used freemium pricing to facilitate product adoption and user referrals. A survey is provided of the cloud-storage industry, including an overview of the largest players and their pricing/service models. Further, various freemium-based companies across industries are compared, including user conversion rates and revenue profiles.

    Keywords: Marketing Strategy; Price; Internet; Information Technology Industry;


    Teixeira, Thales, and Elizabeth Anne Watkins. "Freemium Pricing at Dropbox." Harvard Business School Case 514-053, November 2013. (Revised November 2013.) View Details
  6. Groupon for Local Businesses

    Local businesses' experiences with using Groupon to promote themselves ran the gamut of roaring success to absolute failure. Why is there such a large range in outcomes for firms that used daily deal sites such as Groupon? This case examines the effectiveness of online daily deal sites from the point of view of local businesses.

    Keywords: online business; online marketing; digital marketing; Marketing; Advertising Industry; North and Central America;


    Teixeira, Thales, and Leora Kornfeld. "Groupon for Local Businesses." Harvard Business School Case 514-047, November 2013. View Details
  7. Mekanism: Engineering Viral Marketing

    The Mekanism case introduces students to a digital media production company specialized in creating viral marketing campaigns for advertising agencies and their clients (e.g., Microsoft, AXE, eBay, Toyota, etc.). Mekanism has grown tremendously from 2007 to 2010 in part due to the rise of viral marketing as a promising promotion tool for advertisers to reach and engage with consumers cheaply and quickly via word-of-mouth. Mekanism's president is contemplating expanding its services to other advertising content and media (e.g., televison, print, online) in effect becoming a full-service ad agency. This case is intended to discuss whether Mekanism should "evolve" into an ad agency or keep focused on producing and distributing viral marketing content.

    Keywords: Viral Marketing; advertising; viral ads; virality; Mekanism; advertising agency; social media; influencer; storytelling; advertising content; Advertising; Advertising Industry; North and Central America;


    Teixeira, Thales S. "Mekanism: Engineering Viral Marketing." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 513-043, August 2012. View Details
  8. Marketing Communications

    This note identifies the main issues involved in the effective management of the marketing communications process. It first defines the purpose of communication. Then it classifies the tools available to communicate with consumers. In the sequel, it elaborates on how consumers respond to communication attempts. Finally, it lays out a framework for marketers to manage the entire communication process.

    Keywords: marketing communication; advertising; promotion; social media; digital media; viral advertising; Marketing; Communications Industry; North and Central America;


    Teixeira, Thales S. "Marketing Communications." Harvard Business School Background Note 513-041, August 2012. View Details
  9. Mekanism: Engineering Viral Marketing

    Mekanism introduces students to a digital media production company specializing in creating viral marketing campaigns for advertising agencies and clients (e.g., Microsoft, AXE, eBay, Toyota, etc.) Mekanism has grown tremendously from 2007 to 2010 in part due to the rise of viral marketing as a promising promotion tool for advertisers to reach and engage consumers cheaply and quickly via word-of-mouth. Mekanism's president is contemplating expanding its services to other advertising content and media (e.g., television, print, online) in effect becoming a full-service ad agency. This case is intended to discuss whether Mekanism should 'evolve' into an ad agency or keep focused on producing and distributing viral marketing content.

    Keywords: Viral Marketing; viral advertising; core competencies; growth strategy; Online media; videos; advertising; advertising media; Online Technology; Expansion; Media; Marketing; Advertising; Advertising Industry; North and Central America;


    Teixeira, Thales S., and Alison Caverly. "Mekanism: Engineering Viral Marketing." Harvard Business School Case 512-010, April 2012. (Revised April 2013.) View Details
  10. Pepsi-Lipton Brisk

    This case showcases key decisions in promoting the re-launch of Brisk, a ready-to-drink iced tea by Pepsi-Lipton. The decisions are: creative, media and metrics selection. It also deals with budget allocation to traditional (Super Bowl, television) and new (viral ads and social) media.

    Keywords: Marketing Channels; Marketing Communications; Advertising Campaigns; Decision Making; Media; Product Launch; Resource Allocation; Performance Effectiveness; Budgets and Budgeting; Food and Beverage Industry;


    Teixeira, Thales S., and Alison Caverly. "Pepsi-Lipton Brisk." Harvard Business School Case 512-011, September 2011. (Revised December 2012.) View Details
  11. Immersion Experience Program Note: Brazil

    Companies visited: Allied Advanced Technologies, BrasilAgro, Clearsale,, Globo, Groupon Brazil, Insper, JGP Investimentos, LIGHT, Maracana Stadium, Petrobras S.A., Vale S.A.

    Keywords: Brazil;


    Musacchio, Aldo, Thales S. Teixeira, Stephanie Galloway, Cassie Bordeau, and Felix Oberholzer-Gee. "Immersion Experience Program Note: Brazil." Harvard Business School Publishing, 2011. View Details