QR codes (Quick Response) offers publishers another strategy to compete with Google and other online advertising vendors. With online advertising now ranked as the second largest segment after television according the latest IAB report, magazine publishers must seize any opportunity to get the attention of advertisers.
For the uninitiated a QR code is a 2D bar code that is linked to a mobile web page. A QR code can be scanned by a smartphone with a QR app reader. A QR code can be obtained for free or through a paid service depending on your needs. The free service offers no tracking capabilities but most likely the web page can be linked to Google Analytics for traffic reporting or your web analytics that you use for your web site. QR code usage in Canada grew 442% since the 3rd quarter of 2010, suggest that heavy trial and experimentation by companies.
QR codes provide magazine publishers a new opportunity to make print ads more accountable for advertisers and to help compete with the pay per click programs offered by Google and other vendors. By placing a QR code in the print ad advertisers can track the response rate of any offer that is part of the ad. This provides an online tracking feature that was never in the magazine publisher toolbox that can only help the response rate of ads. In the Equifax ad below the QR code is linked to a landing page.
There are many creative ways that QR codes can be implemented. According to Marc Meloche of mmmobile, a QR code vendor, a QR code can link to a web page that can have a coupon, contest, send a text message/email, create an entry in address book, open a Google map or even make a phone call. This provides a level of interaction with a print ad that has never been available before for advertisers. mmmobile also offers branded QR codes that will include a logo of the company for added impact.
According to Al Scornaienchi, president of Agency 59, who recently did a review of QR codes for their clients states these observations on how QR codes fit in their plans:
QR Codes: Yes, No or Maybe.
“As a fully integrated agency, it’s always been critical for us to employ every form of response available. QR codes are yet one more form of response. Hence, we’ve been reviewing the applicability client by client, to determine where it makes sense. For starters, does the client have a mobile-enabled destination or application? If not, we might recommend a simple mobile landing page – but again, only when it makes sense. Point is, just because something exists, doesn’t mean you should use it. Use it only when it’s relevant. And we would never implement codes without a good tracking mechanism. Finally, in the original ad itself – we carefully write a succinct line of copy to accompany the code. No over-sell. A fair description of what they’ll get if they choose to scan. The bottom line is – we haven’t used QR codes to replace other forms of response, but to add to the mix. Yet another way, when warranted, to engage the consumer further.”
QR codes can also be a new source of revenue for magazine publishers. For example, a promotional program that I am working on with Condominia magazine will have a QR code issued to real estate agents that can be used on their signage that will link to their home’s listing information. In a USA Today report, QR codes are being used as a new source of revenue for the tombstones industry. An enterprising company Quiring Moments in Seattle is now including a QR code on tombstones for all new purchases that will link to the person’s biography, for previous customers it can be added for $65.
Publishers can create lead generation programs with QR codes that link to web pages with specific offers. One idea I came up with for a Tourism magazine was to have a QR code for the restaurant ads that will link to a web page with a menu and coupon. This can be packaged in the ad program for the advertisers and thus generate a new source of revenue through the creation of the landing pages for the publisher or ad agency.
I had a wonderful discussion in Vancouver with Steve Ceron, owner of Think Green Publishing, during the British Columbia magazine conference in June and his excitement on the value of QR codes spurred me to write the column on them. Some of the potential uses of QR codes that we discussed were that they can be part of the point of sale material, where a potential customer can scan the code and get additional product details.
The biggest obstacle for magazine publishers is the fear of change and the possible cannibalization of print advertising revenues. This fear will be the downfall of print media as they will stand still while their online competitors will continually take away the share of mind and budgets of advertisers. QR codes are another one of those opportunities that may go by publishers as their ship sinks further with the online onslaught.