The amount of advertising we are subjected to is getting out of control. We have commercials on TV/radio, we have billboards along our roads, and ads placed all over websites. There are even product placements within TV shows/movies.
If you ever see a character using a brand name it’s a safe bet that the company paid the TV show to have their product featured. The most annoying ads are played on TV that take up the bottom 1/4 of the screen as the show just comes back from commercials.
With technology evolving the way we consume our media advertising is evolving right alongside it. You’ve probably seen little square black-dotted pictures that have small squares in three of the corners popping up everywhere recently. They are called quick response (QR) codes and they’re placements by marketers. QR codes were not originally intended to serve advertisers; they were developed by the automotive industry in 1994 to help the manufacturers keep track of cars as they were being built.
QR codes were developed because they had the ability to be scanned and tell the scanner a lot more information than standard UPC barcodes that can only represent numbers. A quick scan of the QR code would tell the manufacturer a lot about the car they are building. A QR code could contain just about any kind of information desired as long as the scanner is configured to properly read the code being displayed. Since their inception in 1994 several standards for QR codes have arisen but most of the codes you see in public are designed to work with mobile operating systems.
As an advertising platform I like QR codes because they can be easily ignored. They take up little space and aren’t flashy enough that they distract you from whatever you’re looking at. QR code scanners are made for every major mobile platform. The way it works is this: you open up the QR scanner application and it takes a picture of the QR code, the QR code contains information that tell the scanner to either open up another app on your phone or a web page within your phones browser.
Scanning a QR code can be quite convenient. If you saw a movie poster and wanted to know more about it a QR code on the poster could open up a website made for that movie. If you were at a restaurant and wanted to check in, a QR code could be scanned that will open up Facebook or foursquare and pre-enter the location for you so you don’t have to spend time searching for locations near you. If you were reading about a mobile app and wanted to download that app, a QR code could be scanned that would open up your phone’s app store with that app ready to download.
There are also applications available for creating QR codes. This means that you or anyone can create a QR code that does whatever is desired. These applications are easy to use too.
Today you’ll find QR codes in the oddest of places because anyone can make them. Some websites are dedicated to displaying oddly placed QR codes. The oddest place I’ve heard of so far is on the gravestone of a deceased person.
JASON OGAARD was born in Bemidji and is a software engineer for FICO, a Minneapolis-based public company providing analytics and decision-making services, including credit scoring credit bureaus.