QR codes are the technology marketers’ love and consumers’ hate. They frequently show up in print, out-of-home, online, TV, and even in-game ads. The problem: Most people have no idea how or why they should use them.
That hasn’t stopped advertisers, who make any number of excuses for the obvious shortcomings QR codes have. Awareness just needs to improve, QR code supporters say. The now-clunky interface will get better, they add. Once the content behind the code is compelling, just you wait. All these promises are starting to sound like pipe dreams of techno-fetishists.
“They’re appealing from a marketer’s point of view because they look hip and cool and they’re the new thing. From a value standpoint, though, they’re essentially just URLs. There’s a disconnect between what marketers want to see and what’s really there,” said David Wachs, president of mobile marketing technology firm Cellit.
Wachs predicts use of the codes will begin to fade as marketers realize it’s not worth dedicating time or ad real estate to them for the level of response they generate. Most advertisers would be better off using simple URLs, he suggested, which take up less space and are at least understood by most consumers.
Even agency execs — among whom the technology was once the talk of the town – are beginning to rethink their approaches to it, but they maintain there can be value behind the codes if implemented correctly. 360i is currently working on guidelines designed to educate its clients on good and bad uses, for example.
“They’re usually not well thought out, and that’s the biggest knock on them. If they were being run better, we wouldn’t need as much of a debate. … They’re being used in a slap-dash manner,” said the agency’s director of emerging platforms, David Berkowitz.
In spite of that, agencies maintain that the codes can prove successful for certain brands and marketers, provided they think through what value is being provided to the consumer. Product packaging, for example, provides the perfect opportunity to present consumers with product demos, recipes, and coupons.
“They’re just so easy to create, and that’s making the problem worse,” Berkowitz said, explaining why the codes are now pasted all over out-of-home and print ads. “Marketers need to invest more in the strategy behind them,” he added, highlighting the continued use of codes in mediums they simply aren’t suited to, such as TV spots, which he described as “mind-bogglingly awful.”
Wachs, meanwhile, argued that SMS-based response mechanisms do a better job of providing a similar functionality and also enable the capture of users’ cellphone numbers for remarketing and CRM purposes. But your average SMS campaign isn’t going to excite a creative dreaming of Cannes Lions. Berkowitz dubs fuddy-duddy SMS as “probably the most underutilized marketing channel there is,” but cited the costs of implementing such a campaign.
The biggest problem QR codes face is consumer indifference, even confusion. Most smartphones don’t carry code scanners preinstalled, and most users are disinclined to download one just to scan a code they’ve seen on an ad. Even those that do will probably only scan one or two codes before the novelty wears off, so stats from measurement companies such as ComScore suggesting millions of consumers are scanning away on a regular basis should be taken with a grain of salt.
And, yes, the numbers will inevitably increase particularly as carriers and OS developers move towards bundling the software with handsets. Yet Berkowitz and Wachs agreed that adoption could continue to lag in spite of that trend. In fact, it might never happen on a grand scale.
“It might get easier to scan these codes, but, really, what’s the benefit?” Wachs said, adding, “The gimmick factor is soon going to dissipate.” Berkowitz agreed, stating, “It has to get really, really easy for this to become more of a mainstream technology.”
With Roku leading the pack, study says 94% of households are reachable through CTV
Connected TV remains on the rise in programmatic advertising, fueled by the popularity of Roku, Samsung and Amazon devices.
Digital investors take time out as British Pound plummets
Don’t expect an M&A frenzy, despite Sterling’s historic low, as volatility cools investors’ appetites.
Member ExclusiveMedia Briefing: The pros, cons of three pricing models for publisher, sportbook content deals
Publishers and sportsbooks are looking for new payout models beyond the standard cost-per-acquisition structure, which is priced on average between $200-500 per new customer.
SponsoredHow FAST channels are redefining primetime opportunities for advertisers
Sponsored by Vevo With the competition from content providers continuing to build, the traditional primetime TV slots are no longer guaranteeing the mass audiences they once did. Television viewership is evolving, and the primetime window of 8–11 p.m. is less broadly reflective of younger audiences’ content consumption habits. In 2022, attracting TV viewers is a […]
The New York Times looks to gaming product to grow subscriptions
The Times' use of games as a subscriber funnel is part of a renewed focus on gaming sparked by the company's acquisition of Wordle in January.
Inside the NFL’s youth-focused social strategy
As part of the NFL Content Creator Network, the league is engaging with fans in new, innovative ways via gaming or just through creative social media activations.