Should QR Codes Be Part of Your Video Marketing? Lessons from the Super Bowl

Image: Lesson learned and photo of the article author Craig Hadley

Executive Summary:

YouTube users view a whopping 1 billion hours of video each day. Hulu had 48.5 million subscribers as of Q4 2023. This post explores whether incorporating QR codes into video marketing campaigns, as seen in Super Bowl ads, could help you meet your goals. It highlights the resurgence of QR codes, driven by technological advances and shifting consumer behaviors, and discusses the advantages, such as enhanced engagement and detailed analytics, and the considerations, including audience familiarity and security concerns.

The Opportunity

In today's hectic world, The Creative Company constantly seeks unique, innovative ways to connect with audiences and add value to our client’s campaign investments. The trend toward video advertising is undeniable. YouTube users view a whopping 1 billion hours of video each day. Hulu had 48.5 million subscribers as of Q4 2023.

Video advertising, like traditional commercials, is here to stay. But QR codes, once a novelty, have lunged back into relevance, offering a bridge between the digital and physical realms.

QR codes present a tantalizing engagement tool, particularly in video advertising—be it Super Bowl commercials, Connected TV (CTV), or Google Ads campaigns. But should you incorporate QR codes into your video marketing strategy? Let's dive in.

Cardi B in an ad that ended with a QR code, leading viewers to more content.

Bridging Online and Offline Worlds

The true power of QR codes in video advertising lies in their ability to connect viewers with online content in a fully trackable, seamless way. By scanning a QR code displayed in a CTV or Google Ads video, viewers can be instantly taken to a landing page, promotional offer, or exclusive content. This enhances engagement and streamlines the consumer journey from awareness to engagement or even action.

The Resurgence of QR Codes

QR codes have made a remarkable comeback, driven by technological advancements and shifts in consumer behavior. Smartphones now universally come equipped with QR scanning capabilities, making these codes more accessible than ever.

Here are a few examples from Super Bowl 58. NYX featured Cardi B in an ad that ended with a QR code, leading viewers to more content (see above). TurboTax offered a QR code for a chance to win $1 million (see video below). Apple promoted Usher's music on Apple Music post-halftime. Beyoncé released new music via Verizon. Snapchat and Pfizer directed viewers to custom websites through their commercials.

It may seem odd that several of these commercials encouraged viewers to leave the game behind and do something else. However, our expectations as TV viewers have evolved toward more immersive and interactive experiences.

    Image: Screenshot of teh BAERSkin YouTube add showing a 60% off coupon and supportive call to action

    BEARSkin with a QR code to urge the viewer to act with a deal and effective CTA.

    The Advantages of QR Codes in Video Ads

    QR codes make video ads more interactive, providing a straightforward way for viewers to learn more about a product, take advantage of promotions, or download apps right from their screens. This direct call to action simplifies the viewer's journey from interest to engagement.

    They also allow for detailed tracking and analysis. With QR codes, advertisers can easily measure how many people interact with their ads, offering insights into the campaign's reach and effectiveness. This data is crucial for refining marketing strategies and understanding audience behavior.

    Additionally, QR codes can enhance the viewer's experience. They open up possibilities for creative content like augmented reality, personalized web pages, or unique offers, making ads more engaging and increasing the likelihood of viewers.

    Coke offered a method to get consumers to act now.

    Disadvantages and Considerations

    Despite their benefits, QR codes come with considerations:

    • Your Targeted Audience: Not all viewers may be comfortable using QR codes. Consider whether your target audience will likely engage with them.
    • Relevance: The content linked through the QR code must be valuable and relevant. Irrelevant links can frustrate viewers who are likely watching your ad before the start of the show or movie that they want to watch.
    • Security Concerns: QR codes can be exploited for phishing or to spread malware. Security is a significant concern. “Always scan smartly and review the destination closely. There have been actual occurrences of fake menus with malicious intent placed on restaurant tables,” said Eric Selje, a Madison, WI-based IT Security Professional.
    • Visibility and Accessibility: The QR code must be easily scannable. Factors like the ad's screen size and the distance from the viewer can affect scan success rates.
    Real-World Applications and Success Stories

    To illustrate the potential, let's look at a few examples:

    • Nike’s Interactive Shopping Experience: By integrating QR codes into their video ads, Nike enabled viewers to purchase featured products directly, showcasing a seamless path from ad to action.
    • Spotify’s Playlist Sharing: Spotify used QR codes to enhance content discovery, allowing users to instantly listen to playlists or artists featured in their video ads.
    • Netflix's "Altered Carbon" Campaign: This campaign used QR codes to unlock an augmented reality experience, deepening viewer engagement with the show's universe.
    • World Wildlife Federation: WWF used QR codes to lead viewers to direct action to help our planet stabilize climate change and halt mass extinction
    Image: Screenshot showing a character in a video wearing a tee shirt with a QR code for Rocket Morgage.

    Example of a QR code embedded on an actor's shirt.

    Usage that Sparks Curiosity

    Video ads are getting creative by putting QR codes on actors' T-shirts. This clever move turns a simple ad into an interactive experience. Viewers who scan the QR code from the T-shirt are taken straight to special offers. It's a fun and direct way to connect with the audience, making the ad more engaging and memorable.

    Tracking QR Code Campaigns in Google Analytics

    Implementing QR codes in your video advertising campaigns is just the first step. You need to track interactions and measure performance to understand their impact truly. Google Analytics offers a robust framework for tracking QR code-driven traffic, allowing you to gather insights into how users engage with your content after scanning.

    Here's what it takes to set up and monitor your QR code campaigns in Google Analytics:

    • A basic understanding of best practices for QR code tracking
    • Comfortable with using UTM Parameters
    • Configuring events in Google Tag Manager
    • Adding goals in Google Analytics
    • Using conversion objectives in Google Ads or CTV Platforms such as StackAdapt
    Should You Use QR Codes in Your Video Campaigns?

    The decision to use QR codes in your video advertising strategy should be informed by your campaign goals, targeted audience, and the nature of the content you're promoting.

    When implemented thoughtfully, QR codes can significantly enhance engagement, provide measurable insights, and create a more interactive viewer experience. However, it's essential to approach this tool with a clear understanding of its capabilities and limitations, ensuring it aligns with your overall marketing strategy and audience preferences.

    As we look to the future, the role of QR codes in video advertising is poised to grow, driven by ongoing technological innovations and consumer engagement strategies. By considering the abovementioned factors and staying attuned to best practices, marketers can leverage QR codes to bridge the gap between viewers and brands, making every video ad a gateway to deeper engagement.

    Bonus: QR Code Design Tips
    • Dynamic QR Codes are much more versatile and pack more information per pixel than static QR Codes. They are also easily scannable and can be customized as needed, which is only sometimes possible with static code.
    • Visibility: Ensure the QR code is large enough to be easily scanned by viewers. It should be prominently displayed without blending into the background.
    • Contrast: Use high contrast between the QR code and its background to simplify scanning. Typically, a black QR code on a white background works best.
    • Placement: Position the QR code in a part of the screen where it won't be obscured by video player controls or become too intrusive on the content.
    • Timing: Keep the QR code on the screen for a sufficient duration, ideally 5-10 seconds, to give viewers time to grab their phones and scan it.
    • Simplicity & White Space: Avoid cluttering the QR code with too much information or design elements. A simple, clear QR code scans more reliably. Make sure to include white space around the base QR code.
    • Call to Action (CTA): Accompany the QR code with a clear, compelling call to action that instructs viewers what they'll gain by scanning it, such as "Scan to learn more!" or "Scan for exclusive offers!"
    • Security Assurance: Given security concerns with QR codes, reassure users of the safety of scanning by using trusted QR code generators and ensuring the landing page is secure
    • Analytics Tracking: Use a trackable QR code or add tracking parameters to the URL to measure engagement and effectiveness, helping to refine future campaigns.

    To learn more about how you can make the most of every marketing opportunity, including video marketing, reach out to The Creative Company.

    Image: Photo headshot of the author Craig Hadley of The Creative Company

    Craig Hadley, 
    Content Experience Analyst

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