Wednesday, 15 December 2010

QR Codes - Fail examples

Over the last couple of weeks i've noticed two examples where QR codes have been embedded in advertising, poorly. What's more, the codes appear in the promotions of two large, well established brands.

For those that don't know QR (Quick Response) codes are, in short, a black and white barcode-type square which directs mobile users to material hosted elsewhere online by the advertising brand. QR codes can be set up to link to a mobile app or used to populate an SMS for the user to send. However in the case of Olympus and Waitrose they've been used for their more common purpose - redirection to a website, full or mobile.

Considering mobile access to a website requires a phone signal (and for bigger website a good one at that) you'd think that Olympus would have considered the media space used for the advert below more carefully (the QR code is just to the left of the camera at the bottom).

It's not immediately obvious from here but this is a London Underground station - Charing Cross to be precise - where, unsurprisingly, you can't get a phone signal. Needless to say when i tried scanning the code it didn't work!

But one thing Olympus has going in it's favour is a captive audience who are likely to have the time to retrieve their phone, open a QR reading app and scan the code - this took me at least 20 seconds at Charing Cross. 

Waitrose on the other hand have not thought this practicality through. In the ad below you'll notice the code appear at the end of the advert but for all of 2 or 3 seconds. Hardly time to conduct the three step process above. Are they expecting their audience to be waiting with baited breath, mobile in hand and app at the ready? I think not.

QR code technology is not yet widespread even though it has been around for some years now. These examples are an indication that big brands are beginning to sit up and pay attention but it's hardly a token gesture given the lack of thought given to the practical execution.

For my money it'll really kick off if used cleverly on print and packaging. Marks and Spencer were believed to have launched a test on small OJ cartons sold in their Central London stores some time ago. Let's hope it was successful.

To find a good example look no further than Calvin Klein in New York. Having been burdened with a censorship from the local authorities for a previous 'raunchy' billboard ad, CKNY made use of QR codes to hide the advert behind the audience's phone screen. Clever.


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