We examined the effectiveness of direct and indirect advertising. Direct ads openly depict advertised products and brands. In indirect ads, the ad message requires elaboration. Eye movements were recorded while consumers viewed direct and indirect advertisements under fixed (5 s) or unlimited exposure time. Recognition of ads, brand logos and preference for brands were tested under two different delays (after 24 h or 45 min) from the ad exposure. The total viewing time was longer for the indirect ads when exposure time was unlimited. Overall, ad pictorials received more fixations and the brand preference was higher in the indirect condition. Recognition improved for brand logos of indirect ads when tested after the shorter delay. Consumers experienced indirect ads as more original, surprising, intellectually challenging and harder to interpret than direct ads. Current results indicate that indirect ads elicit cognitive elaboration that translates into higher preference and memorability for brands.