QR Codes in UK Press Advertising

Posted: 14/06/2011 in Advertising, QR Codes
Tags: , , ,

We all know that there are a million and one uses for QR Codes in today’s ‘on the move’ world, but one that has fascinated us for a while has been the use of QR Codes in Press Advertising.  A complete ‘no brainer’ for advertisers to utilise the space of a postage stamp on their press ads to add another dimension to their advertising…

Of course, it’s easy to create a QR Code and link it to your online content, but what we are seeing from the world of advertising is little, if any, thought being given to the user experience following a scan from these QR Codes. Some are getting it right, but others (and far too many) are not.

If this lack of User Consideration continues, we will see consumers turning off this unique form of engagement.  It’s not difficult to implement a good campaign, you’ve just got to start putting yourself in the shoes of the mobile consumer.

QR Codes have a certain mystic attached to them at the moment.  People are inquisitive, possibly excited about what might be behind the code – a rewarding experience perhaps?

If our content fails to live up to the consumers expectation, will they turn off altogether?  A rather somber comment, but if we continue to deliver dull, unimaginative content – or worse still, content that’s impossible to interact with on a mobile device, we stand a good chance of killing this medium off before it’s had a chance to reach its potential..

We regularly hear QR Code Mavericks preaching about mobilizing your content.  Whilst this is of course essential, it should also just be a case of ‘common sense’ that you don’t deliver content to a mobile device which is impossible to interact with.  Given we are delivering content optimised for the mobile, it’s now down to providing engaging, imaginative content which rewards the scanning process and leaves the consumer wanting more!

With this in mind, let’s see what a typical day of advertising in a major UK Free Newspaper with a circulation of in excess of 1.36m & an estimated 3.3m readers has to offer in terms of hope for the humble QR Code.

The following are ads all appeared in the London edition of the Metro on 9th June 2011.

1.  University of Westminster

Not a great start I’m afraid…  Nice use of colour within the QR Code in this ad, but that’s where the positives end.

No explanation where the code might be taking you and no instruction either.  The lack of content explanation is typical of what we fear about consumers feeling well and truly let down following a scan of a code like this.  It could resolve to something cool, exciting and rewarding..  but then again it could resolve to a worthless experience and leave the viewer feeling disappointed and disillusioned with the brand.

The result…. A pointless use of a QR Code to deliver a dull & uninspiring desktop web site.

Marketers are a secretive bunch, especially when it comes to sharing campaign results..  Not so for those of you using bit.ly QR Codes – as we can all see your results:

2.  Co-operative Foods

Next up is a 1/2 page ad for The co-operative (UK Supermarket chain).  Before we look at the use of the QR Code in this ad, we would like to credit the creative in this ad, which followed through to the web site. If it’s part of a new look to The co-op, then well done – the brand needed a make-over.

A lot of what we covered in the University of Westminster review has been repeated again here.

No user instruction, No clue as to what is behind the code – just thrown on the artwork as an after thought?  Almost inevitability we end up landing on their desktop web site page!

What exactly was the purpose of the QR Code on this ad?  The ad promoted the goodwithfood.co.uk web site, yet the QR Code resolved to www.co-operative.co.uk – a desktop web site, which might look nice, but is impossible to interact with on a mobile device.

Oh… and they used bit.ly for the code – so here are their results.

3.  David Lloyd

Should we be a bit more forgiving to David Lloyd as we are fast approaching Wimbledon this year?  To be honest, he wasn’t a world class Tennis player, but he has made a success out of the fitness mad Brits.  This brand like the others doesn’t want you to know where the code will take you, nor do they want to help educate consumers how they need to interact with a QR Code.  So, they leave it to the imagination of the consumer – a dangerous game, as we consumers are highly imaginative and easily let down.

Would the QR Code reveal an exclusive offer, or reward for the scan?  Possibly, some cool video promoting the benefits of membership or even an app download to help us stay fit whilst on the move?

Afraid not…  You guessed it, the QR Code resolved to http://davidlloyd.co.uk/metro – a standard desktop web site – such disappointment!

4.  O2 Guru

This has been a long wait…  A UK Mobile business finally catching on to the use of QR Codes in advertising.  Congratulations O2 you are the first we are aware of (please correct this statement if need be within the comments section of this post).

There’s something about the placement of the QR Code within this ad, which indicates this was a complete after-thought and probably added at the last minute, much to the annoyance of the creative team.  QR Codes can and should be used as an integral part of a creative concept – why not bring them into the ad and promote another dimension to your press ad?

The ad doesn’t tell us what to expect when we scan the QR Code, nor does it give us any instruction how to interact with it, or for that matter what that Black and White Matrix thing actually is..  Some of this has been left down to the continuous promotion of QR Codes by the host newspaper.  Wouldn’t you have liked to know where you’re going as the result of the scan?

Surely a major player in the Mobile world would provide some relevant content behind the QR Code scan…

Well they did, a good quality mobile site and even a mention of using QR Codes on our Android phone!  The mobile site could have done with a ‘reward’ of some sort. We’re not with O2, but thinking about how they might deal with prospective customers from a QR Code visit, we could have started with an integrated Facebook Like to help kick start the engagement process – just a thought…

5.  Debenhams

Before we start to review the Debenhams ad, we have to declare an interest in this one..  We were approached by an existing client a while ago, who asked whether it would be possible to create a QR Code service which recognised the scanning phone’s operating system and then redirected the scan to the client’s app download within the relevant App Store (iTunes, Android Market, Ovi, Blackberry etc)…  We were nearing the final roll out of this service when we opened discussions with Debenhams. Within a couple of days we went live with the new solution now fully integrated into the QRtag platform

Debenhams are just one of many brands that have been looking for a solution that will allow them to promote their multi-platform smartphone apps.  They had already experimented with QR Codes and understood the power of QR Codes in offline advertising.

It’s clear from the ad what’s on offer if you scan the QR Code – it’s an ‘honest’ Code – no mystic, it’s what you see is what you get.

But then then the beauty of the experience reaches a new level – the scan delivers exactly the content it promised – resolving right to the app download in my phone’s app store!  In this case, the Debenhams Android app..  The QR Code also supported an iiTunes & Ovi download, with unsupported phone types redirecting to the Debenhams Home Page (OK, it was lacking a mobile touch..)

So all in all, not a great day for QR Codes in UK Press Advertising, but there is a ray of hope in amongst those in the early adopter learning process.  Great content needs creative thought, which in some cases can be facilitated by innovative back-end systems – often neglected the lime-light it deserves.

Over recent months, we have been quietly rolling out our QR Code Ad Management Platform – QRtag to a select number of the UK’s Blue Chip brands. Channelled through our Managed Service, we have created, tracked and analysed literally 100’s of thousands QR Code scans over the past few months.

Our Codes have appeared all over the place from full page press ads in the national newspapers to appearing on 1 million Drinks cans.  We’ve supported everyone from Music Festival organisers to App Developers, so if you are considering using QR Codes as part of your ad strategy – please get in touch.  Meantime, remember to empathize with your target audience and give mobile the respect it deserves.

If you’re interested in having a chat, give this QR Code a scan to give me a call!

To visit QRtag – click here

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Comments
  1. paulclarke says:

    nicely done with the number. that was me accidentally calling just now. hope I didn’t wake you up!

  2. talkscience says:

    Great review.

    The thing that has annoyed me for a while about the article on page 2 of the Metro explaining QR Codes is that there are very few of them in the paper (often none – but they still run the article) – and they are all on adverts.

    Why doesn’t Metro add QR Codes for extra content on some of its own stories? Fairly frequently they will run stories about youtube videos or online stunts – use a QR Code to link to the webpage! Cute animal or celeb story? use a QR Code to share more photos! Letters page? Include codes for a page where you can carry on the discussion!

    The Metro has quite a good online presence, but the linking between the paper and web is missing for me – and QR Codes could make that link!

    • QRazystuff says:

      @talkscience – couldn’t agree more and have mentioned this to Metro.. We thought that was the idea behind their use of QR Codes was not just for advertisers but for the readers.. Perhaps this will happen in time 🙂

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