Report from the Media Frontier

Welcome to Report from the Media Frontier, my ongoing blog that provides guidance and insight on the "changing world of media" to advertising agencies, media buying agencies, the media selling community and brand marketers
Breaking the Code to Advertising Engagement

I generally don’t buy into hype over the latest shiny-new-thing that will “revolutionize” the way we will do media in the future. However, I recently had the opportunity to experiment with a mobile technology that very well may be for the next decade, what social media was for this one and the Internet was for the previous one. Literally a game-changer that builds on all the media trends happening today: consumer control, mobile access, engagement and interactivity with brands, ecommerce, and media convergence.


I’m referring to QR (quick response) 2D bar codes, those 1x1 inch squares whose design looks like someone randomly blackout the boxes of a tiny crossword puzzle. They are called 2D as in 2-dimensional in that they can be scanned up or down or from right to left, as opposed to 1-dimensional (think UPC bar codes) that can only be scanned and read right to left. These QR bar codes literally can be placed virtually anywhere – in ads, on packaging, sales tags, on signage, and even T-shirts. They are also currently used by magazines and newspapers to give readers access to deeper, multi-media content.


According to eMarketer (June 2010), 61 million Smartphones are used in the US. As more consumers adapt devises with cameras and instant web access, QR bar codes will have the potential to become as common as phone numbers and website URLs are as marketing connection points. I’m sure by next year, scanning apps will be preloaded as a standard utility on all Smartphones, but for now you can simply get them for free at most online apps stores. A real robust version I downloaded on the iPhone app store is ScanLife, which takes a minute to download and works with nearly all standard 1D, 2D and ScanLife’s own proprietary QR bar codes.


Once the QR codes are scanned by the app a world of connections opens up to users. They are doorways to instantaneously send on-the-go users to a website or WAP site, save a contact or calendar entry to a phone, make a voice call, send an SMS, Tweet or email and do a host of other engaging interaction. And unlike most advertising, this is completely consumer initiated so marketers are getting highly qualified and interested prospects engaging with the brand.


One recent example that received some strong buzz is’s campaign on Bravo’s “Closet Confessions” that used a unique 45-second ad with a QR code overlaid on the TV spot. Once the QR code is scanned from the TV screen, you are sent to Bluefly’s mobile site where you can see an extended video and sign up to receive a promo code that takes $30 off any $150 order. While this is widely done in Europe and Asia, QR coded TV spots in the U.S. is just beginning.


Here are some pointers as you embark on adding QR bar codes to future campaigns. First, make it mobile relevant. If it just as easy for someone to get to a brand’s site by typing in a URL will sitting in their living then there is little reason to take the effort to scan the code. Second, provide something of value – a discount, exclusive content, or entertainment. This is still a form of direct response, albeit on steroids, so the best practices of DR apply here as well. Third, deliver unique access to content which may only be available through a code. Take advantage of all the nuances and engagements that a Smartphone offers. Fourth, keep it simple, but engaging. More new ideas die because they are just too much work for consumer – make the juice worth the squeeze.


1 comment | Add a New Comment
1. Bentheredonethat | November 07, 2010 at 09:00 PM EST

I look for QR codes on the magazines that I buy. They are relevant. I agree with your article, they are here to stay.

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