The iTV Doctor Is In! Are We Ready for QR Codes on TV?
The recent victory of Japan in the Women's World Cup, and the recent exercise of journalistic hubris (not to mention lack of ethics) in London, started me thinking about the rapidly accelerating handheld technology (led, of course, by Japan) and the security of handheld devices.
As we all know, and generally refuse to admit, our cell phones are not secure. Our calls, our voicemail, our texts, our emails and most of our commercial transactions, when conducted over a cellular network, are at risk to any number of bad-minded people and organizations. And, inasmuch as cable/telco/satellite operators pride themselves on the security of their subscribers' data, the hand-off from television to a handheld device comes with built-in security concerns.
But there is a solution, which we wrote about earlier this year. Mobio Technologies has a security environment that rivals the NSA (National Security Agency), and is the only QR code provider approved by Visa, Mastercard and AmEx for in-app credit-card processing transactions. So that's all very well and good, but is anybody actually using QR codes here in the states? Yes, QR codes are widely used in Japan and parts of Europe. But we don't always follow everything they do. Remember Teletext in the UK? Thank heavens that never took root on this side of the pond.
I started looking around, and there are a lot of companies in the US who are using QR codes now, and consumer acceptance (and usage) is expanding. Solid numbers are hard to come by, but with Internet-enabled handheld devices in over half of US households, it appears that about 30% of those have an active QR reader on their device.
And the companies using QR codes are exploding: virtually every auto manufacturer (and their dealerships), television network, movie studio, consumer electronics retailer and packaged goods company is in the game. They are, literally, everywhere you turn.
But in our little corner of the world, we're concerned with Television, after all. So I did a little research on the use of QR codes in television, and found three major categories:
- Contests and promotions
- Dealer locators and inventory
- Direct response and shopping
Below are some links to television ads using QR codes. This ain't brain surgery--anybody can put a QR code into an ad, and it's not all that difficult to manage the connection between the QR code and the brand's Web site. And from the consumer side, they just open the reader on their smartphone and point to the QR code on the screen. Most of the readers give you a little "ping" sound when they capture the code, and the handheld device takes it from there.
Now, in reference to the security statement above, while just about anybody can put a QR code in the television spot (or a program), I would strongly recommend that any commercial transaction over a handheld device use the best security available.
But now for the fun stuff--here are the spots...
First up is a local spot in the Philadelphia market for Scott Select Cars. The description on the YouTube posting reads as follows:
"Our brand new commercial, the first of its kind (that we know of) to prominently feature a QR code, is set to debut on Comcast and FiOS...Should be a conversation starter with the use of this up-and-coming technology. Sears used one in a commercial during the holiday season, but it was too small to be read by a QR reader. Our code was tested on every TV type, from a small SD TV to a large HD TV from 12 feet away."
A quick scan of the QR code in the spot takes you to a listing of their new and used car inventory. Pretty slick. And easy.
Next up is a short-form near-DRTV spot for Mighty Wallets. Now just a bit of product endorsement here from a Mighty Wallets fan. These are virtually indestructible wallets made from a single sheet of Tyvek. I purchased a wallet made from the NY subway map, and the outside of the wallet shows all the subways from mid-town to downtown. VERY handy when I come into town for a meeting.
Scan the QR code here and you get to a listing of the Mighty Wallet collections, with a simple purchase function from that point on. Of course, the (amazingly cheap) $15 price with Free Shipping is probably not worth the risk of sending unsecured credit-card numbers over a leaky cellular network.
The Weather Channel used a QR code to make it easy for viewers to find and download their new app for Android phones. Scan the code with an Android phone (the scanner is pre-installed on most Android phones), and you get quickly and easily to the download site. Other cable networks are looking at the same process, for iPhone, Android and Blackberry, to get viewers to their download sites without forcing them to navigate through hundreds of thousands of choices in their respective app stores or menus.
The folks at Mobio built a QR code application for Park 'n Fly airport parking (at major airports throughout Canada). One scan takes you to the 50% off coupon and a contest entry for a year of free parking. And Mobio has an interesting wrinkle: users can opt-in to create their own profile, which can store (securely, mind you) their credit-card information, name, address, phone number, scanning, purchase and shopping history and much more. The scanning, purchase and shopping history can be very valuable to a retailer who wants to know, "what are MY customers buying from other people?"
And, staying in the same contest/shopping vein, Mobio also built this application for the "Top Chef Canada" GE Monogram Kitchen Contest. With a quick scan of the QR code, viewers entered a contest to win $15,000 worth of professional kitchen equipment from GE. The spot ran nationally on the Food Network in June and July, 2011.
So, where do we go from here?
Current mobile payment systems, from Google, Paypal and others, use a proximity solution (you literally "bump" the retail terminal at the store with your cell phone). But it looks like Mobio's QR platform is the only dead-secure commerce solution that allows you to make a purchase, or engage in any secure transaction, from anywhere. Pretty cool. See the item on a TV spot. Scan the QR code. Make a secure purchase.
And that may be the thing that drive QR codes on TV here in the States.
The iTV Doctor is *Rick Howe*, who provides interactive television consulting services to programmers and advertisers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was nominated to Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG's. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, "Dr" Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms. Have a question for the iTV Doctor? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org