Mobile Bar Codes Coming to Television

Oct 07, 2010
Bernice Hurst

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

Bar codes are branching out.
Retailers are taking them out of the store and placing them in television commercials
to give viewers the option of scanning them with a mobile device
to receive product information and sales incentives.

Bluefly is the first retailer
to use bar codes on television, embedding them in its Closet Confessions TV
campaign on the Bravo channel. According to a statement from Bluefly, the Closet
Confessions advertisements are a series of 45-second spots that feature celebrities
giving tours of their closets and sharing stories about their lives. The ScanLife
mobile barcodes, or "Quick
Response" codes,
will appear in the ads through November. Viewers will get instant access to
additional video content or a $30-off coupon on a $150 purchase at
when they scan the codes with their camera phones using a barcode scanning

"By incorporating ScanLife mobile barcode technology into the ads, we
are taking Closet Confessions one step further by providing viewers with a
unique call to action that allows them to instantly access exclusive content
and special offers from their phones while they are watching TV," said
Bradford Matson, Bluefly’s chief marketing officer, in a statement.

Taking a
different approach, Warbasse Design used a bar code in a commercial to promote
the HBO television series, True Blood. Viewers scanning the
bar code were able to see an exclusive clip from the upcoming season. Philip
Warbasse, its chief executive, explained to The New York Times. "For
now, this is a clever way to make the commercial last longer … within a
year or two, this will be mainstream with bar codes becoming the preferred
method for television advertisers to deliver extras to interested viewers."

bar codes have been used in the U.S. for advertising in print publications,
on billboards, at movie theaters, and on product packaging, according to Media
Buyer Planner
. While bar codes have been widely used on television in
Europe and Asia, they have been slow to be adopted in the U.S. because of
a lack of one standard code and a limited number of smart phone users who
have downloaded the technology, according to the Times.

But as smart
phones, which now account for 25 percent of the mobile market in the U.S.,
overtake standard mobile phones, the use of bar code technology in ads is
expected to rise.

Michael Becker, managing director for North America of the
Mobile Marketing Association, told the Times bar codes will become more
common because, "They
are simple and quick to use and they trigger a richer, quicker and more interactive
experience for the user."

Discussion Question: What future do you see for bar codes in advertising
on TV and in other media?

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10 Comments on "Mobile Bar Codes Coming to Television"

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Max Goldberg
10 years 7 months ago

This has been tried so many times in the past; each time unsuccessfully. Will bar codes be any different? They might, if they come with significant incentives for consumers to scan them. Otherwise, I don’t see the idea catching on with consumers.

Ben Ball
10 years 7 months ago

I can hardly find a pen to write down the 800 numbers in the current infomercials on TV in time–much less find my phone to do it. Bar codes will most likely find a place s an alternative means of access along with the traditional phone contact. But my gut tells me this is still an “early adopter” play primarily, with a “we’re leading edge” subliminal message that should be beneficial to technology oriented retailers/products in particular.

Bill Emerson
Bill Emerson
10 years 7 months ago

Another step forward, for better or worse, in shortening the time span between “I want one” to “I’ve ordered one.” With the growing sophistication and ubiquity of scanners, this capability is inevitable, effectively turning TV shows into e-commerce sites. This will do wonders for program content, I’m sure.

Ralph Jacobson
10 years 7 months ago

The technology is there to make shopping so painless, I think about the greater, macro effects of this shopping culture: Closed-off, sedate people, never talking, only texting their conversations. Conversations based upon shopping. Exclusively. Sitting in their rooms, where the TV, that only a few years ago was lost to the PC, but now has reemerged as the TV that runs like a PC, so we can have a giant screen to shop on. UGH! Take me away!! lol!

Anne Howe
10 years 7 months ago

Big brands will like this because they can control the message completely. Smart brands will vary the messages to include purchase incentives occasionally as well as other content that can educate, entertain or build brand desire. Extending the message to the consumer at his/her discretion is smart even if not everyone chooses to participate.

Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 7 months ago

Somehow this frightens me more than impresses me. It brings new meaning and ease to “impulse buying.” We certainly don’t need to make it this simple to get deeper in credit debt, do we? I think I will start leaving my semi smartphone in the other room when I am watching TV.

Don Delzell
Don Delzell
10 years 7 months ago
I am fortunate to have been introduced to QR codes by an early evangelist for the technology. The ability of these codes to link the offline world to the online world (credits for that line to should be obvious and quickly grasped by retailers. The ease with which a campaign can be constructed if online content already exists is almost shameful. That being said, I wonder if there aren’t better technologies in use and being brought into common practice which will do a better job of linking the online world with TV. Internet enabled TVs with link enabled hotspot overlays would be a far better approach, maybe, than including scannable codes in commercials. There are real world practicality measures, along with hardware issues. Scanning a 2D code is easier and more reliable than other bar codes because of built-in redundancy of the data. Still…even making my iPhone scan a printed QR code all the time isn’t easy. I’ve taken numerous scans of QR codes from my computer monitor, and the experience hasn’t been close… Read more »
David Dorf
10 years 7 months ago

Since QR-Codes are appearing on storefront windows, billboards, and newspaper ads, it’s a normal progression to TV. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long. I can’t wait to see kids using QR-Codes as graffiti on overpasses and fences.

Craig Sundstrom
10 years 7 months ago

If every bar code includes a $30 coupon, I can see this catching on…maybe; otherwise it seems a curiosity, remarkable more as a technological advance in that (if I understand it correctly) we can now take still photos off a video screen.

Gene Detroyer
10 years 7 months ago

Advertising agencies will sure hate this. It could be used as a measure of the effectiveness of their ads. Agencies have supported ephemeral measures of advertising delivery for years. Now the advertiser can get a cost per 1000 picture takers.

But by the time this catches on, will anyone be watching TV commercials? The technology to watch favorite programs and avoid advertising is developing a lot faster than any technology to make advertising more compelling. See, “TV’s Future Has Arrived (Almost)” in today’s New York Times. It states, “All kinds of [TV program] demand variations are available.” But, there are no compelling models that make room for advertising, let alone picture taking of bar codes.


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