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QR Codes on TV – Gimmicky or Useful?

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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.

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About Keredy Stott

  • http://www.londonmidland.com David @ London Midland

    Interesting article.

    Regarding your comments on QR codes, we have been using them for quite a while now as a quick way to get to specific pages within our site – none should take you though to the home page.

    For example, we have a QR code for each one of our different timetables, to avoid people having to trawl through lots of information. However, we also know that people are getting more and more ‘lazy’ when it comes to URLs. How many times do people put a company into Google because they can’t be bothered to type the URL, or even tweet questions that are easy to find the answer to online (for us, that’s often train times)?

    Whilst it isn’t always necessary to use a QR code, however, we are using them on most of our promotional or non-home page links to get people used to using them. As more people turn to other ways to find info, we believe that the QR code is one way to ensure the wealth of info on our website continues to be the main source of answers.

    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Keredy Stott

    Hi David,
    Perhaps I need to apologise then and the code maybe took me to the line’s timetable – I’ll surely check this out when I’m next on a train.
    I should actually have also commended LM for being brave and using them, as you explain above.
    I think London Midland is clearly doing a great job of it’s customer service activity, firstly because you’ve taken the time to post on here very rapidly and I have also been impressed with some of the @tweets I have received when I’ve just mentioned LM.
    Thanks for you comments,
    Keredy

  • http://www.getqrky.com Nick @ GetQRky.com

    David, I think it’s great you’re adding QR codes to give customers quick access to specific content. Are the pages mobile optimised as well? I think a *key* differentiator for online train sites is how quick and easy it is to search for train times. NO ONE has done this successfully in the UK for mobiles – the train line service is terrible on a mobile. I would very much support London Midland getting this done – I’d even consider getting this done for free for you guys on a @Launch48 project or something.

    Keredy, great article. I think you’re discussing a key issue with QR codes. People need to make the codes *useful* and not just add QR codes for the sake of it. I totally agree – we’re releasing an article in a large UK publication in the next few weeks that makes exactly the same point.

    Nick

  • Keredy Stott

    That’s good to hear, Nick. You might be interested in reading this article from the New York Times that my colleague, George, was quoted in about snap tags. He’s our resident QR expert! @georgeguildford

    I’d be interested in reading your article if you want to stay in touch – @the_only_keredy