Interactive bar codes have been popping up more in magazines—Meredith Corp. has just announced it had selected Microsoft Tag as the 2-D bar code standard across its magazines—but some questions still remain about its impact as an advertising tool.
Mobile bar codes link ads or content in magazines to digital editorial and advertising content when a reader swipes the page with a mobile device. Meredith has already used Microsoft tags in its publications like Better Homes and Gardens, Traditional Home, and Family Circle, and for its part, it claims that of people who snap on the ads, 10 percent to 20 percent view or use the ad in some way. Meredith wouldn't reveal what percentage actually snap on its ads, though.
GfK MRI Starch recently released data confirming that QR codes, or snap tags, are showing up more in magazine ads.
From January to August, MRI measured more than 72,000 ads. Five percent of them contained QR or snap codes, up from 1.3 percent in the second half of 2010. And the mere presence of the codes seems to get readers more involved with the ads containing them—of those who saw an ad with a mobile bar code, 5 percent took a picture of it with their cell phones.
By comparison, 14 percent who saw an ad visited the advertiser's website, and 20 percent of readers who saw an ad with a scent strip tried the strip. However, websites and scent strips have been around a long time and people are used to them, whereas QR codes are relatively new and may require the user to download software to access the code.
The tags don’t bring additional consumer attention to ads, though. An average of 52 percent of readers read or saw an ad with a mobile bar code—just below the 54 percent who saw any ad.