How do you grab the attention of jaded creative directors? By arousing their curiosity. In a campaign for Kontor, a dance music label in Germany, Ogilvy Deutschland developed a “Back to Vinyl” direct mail piece that used high-tech gimmickry to promote the new Boris Dlugosch release. Ad agency recipients got a large flat package that contained a vinyl record inside, instead of the usual CD or USB. The vinyl came with instructions to place the record on the printed turntable on the back of the envelope, then activate the QR code with a smart phone. Recipients could listen to the latest Dlugosch track and “move” the needle to play other tracks as well or to contact Kontor via the connect icon. Needless to say, the vinyl promo often became the talk of the office and didn’t get thrown away.
Korea’s largest retail chain, Emart, found that slumping sales at midday were casting a shadow over its revenues and came up with a clever way to attract lunch-time shoppers. At its 38 locations throughout Seoul, Emart installed three-dimensional QR codes on outdoor pillars located to catch the sun. Like a sundial, the shadows on the QR code moved as the sun changed position, and passersby were alerted that they could only read the QR code’s message between 12 noon and 1 pm. Consumers who scanned the code were directed to the Emart online store where they received $12 coupons for products that would be delivered to their homes. Thousands of consumers claimed Emart vouchers, and sales increased by 25% during the lunch hour.
Up until now QR code technology has seemed more gimmicky than practical. Holding your smart phone up against a QR matrix on a magazine page or a storefront window to reveal the secondary message feels like a bothersome extra step that quickly grows tiresome.
But here’s a QR use that promises real convenience and time-savings. Tesco Homeplus in South Korea opened virtual supermarkets in subway stations, permitting commuters to use their smart phones to make grocery purchases. Designed by Cheil ad agency in Seoul, wall-size displays along the passenger waiting platform simulate the experience of shopping in a real supermarket, showing images and prices of a broad range of frequently needed products. Shoppers merely have to scan the QR code of any product they want to purchase to add it to their online shopping cart. The transaction is all completed online and the purchased items are delivered straight to shoppers’ homes.
From Gizmodo comes this report of how the façade of an entire building in a Tokyo shopping district has been covered in a pattern of QR codes that can be read by smart phones. The N Building AR project by Teradadesign and Qosmo lets passersby view the QR code on their cell phone to enable the display of all kinds of information, including store offerings and interactive ads. It will even allow users to download coupons and make reservations. This is an intriguing concept, but it may meet consumer resistance. Without in-your-face advertising, it may be hard to draw the attention of people who don’t want to be bother holding their cell phones up at QR patterns on a building to see what they have to say. Still, like many other inventions that were initially discounted as futuristic fantasy, QR codes as a communication device should be ignored at your own peril. In recent years we have seen too many “safe” communication design/marketing professions disappear for lack of demand. If QR advertisements on buildings and billboards catch on, who will that affect, how will it change our jobs, and how do we get ahead of the trend rather than be trampled by it?