QR codes, or ‘quick response’ codes, have now been in the public domain in the UK for about a year, previously in countries such as Japan and Korea, and also currently more popular in America. Here in Britain, however, they are still seen as the plaything of geeks in some respects or companies have jumped on the QR bandwagon in an attempt at being ‘down with the kids’.
I’m not sure I always see the point of their use, as it’s not so difficult to find a company’s website in a search engine, or type in the URL for that matter, especially when the full address is clearly displayed next to the QR code! One such example that baffled me was on a London Midland poster on a London Midland train; apart from having hardly any signal whilst moving at speed in and out of tunnels, I wasn’t sure why I would need to go to their home page whilst I was travelling. However, when the content is presented as an added extra, is useful or if it takes you to a deep URL, then you can hear me make an excited ‘oooh’. This was the noise I made last Saturday morning when I caught a QR code pop up for each recipe on the BBC cooking programme, The Good Cook.
QR codes on TV are not entirely new – during the final episode of Lost in the US there was a ‘designer’ QR code, dripping with blood, for the new season of True Blood and Waitrose’s Christmas campaign (an upmarket UK supermarket) displayed one at the end of its adverts. However, they are still few and far between, I suppose because the marketers and programme makers just haven’t got their heads around what they could be usefully used for and the mass public market might not be quite ready to rewind and pause live TV to use them.
It’s ironic in a way that I’m writing this post, because I don’t have Sky plus or one of its competitors that would allow me to take advantage of using QR codes on TV (much to my annoyace and continued arguments with my husband, but that’s for another time). Yet, seeing The Good Cook’s presentation of QR codes not only made me want such a service even more but I was so thrilled that they were actually for useful added extras situated at a deep URL I began to think of lots of TV programmes that could benefit from using them. Here are just a few -
• Sports coverage – often interviews with our favourite sports stars aren’t very long due to the scheduling and when an event runs over, interviews and press conferences just aren’t shown. A QR code could be displayed to take you to continued coverage, or extended interviews, on the internet.
• Comedy programmes – I think outtakes or cut scenes would be a hit with viewers, especially with panel shows that, recorded, can often be twice the length of the aired version. One might not be bothered to go and search for such content but if a code was displayed at the end of the programme, viewers are more likely to hit rewind and pause, whilst they’re in the mood.
• Spoilers – some people hate the ‘on next week’s show’ spoilers that come at the end of programmes, such as I am experiencing on the current Torchwood: Miracle Day series, so why not give people a choice to view what’s happening next by using a QR code to the trailer?
• Music – if your favourite artist is being interviewed, or their video is showing on a music channel, a QR code could take you directly to a download location or to exclusive content of, for example, behind the scenes of the video.
• Advertising – ads could be shorter, and therefore cost less for the company, if they were teasers and encouraged viewers to use a QR code to find out the ending. Competition entries, including those integrated with social media, would make for a great 360 degree campaign and maybe more sales could be made if you could immediately shop for an item.
These are just of few of my ideas and I expect it may still be a while before QR codes are fully mainstream and used in advertising, marketing or tech PR agency spheres. Of course, not everyone will have access to a digital TV pausing function or a smartphone with a downloaded QR scanner but I think there is capacity for creativity and I look forward to being able to ‘oooh’ at QR codes on TV more often.