It is not easy dealing with change; one can only hope they have the skills to adapt. Nowhere is this more evident than in marketing and advertising campaigns. Quick response (QR) codes and Microsoft Tags (M Tags) are quickly taking off though many may be left uninterested in their benefits. As of now it seems QR is leading the march of the two-dimensional codes but it is still difficult to say if this trend will last. Movie fans will always have their favourite websites to keep in the loop for the latest news but how many are truly stopped in their tracks to the point of taking a picture and logging on to the web for information. As studios continue to pursue the best means for getting their films known is it safe to say these 2D codes are the next big step to getting audiences in front of the big screen?
QR codes have been around for the past 18 years. Originating in Japan, these codes were primarily used to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. Over the years the technology has grown ever more popular across the globe creating a limitless potential for this new technology. These days QR codes can be seen nearly anywhere from works of art, movie posters, clothing and even gravestones.
The actual 2D code looks something like television static that has been frozen in frame (see left). The top two corners as well as the bottom left feature blocks which a mobile device locks on to in order to direct users to a website that contains features and occasionally secrets about the product that the code is on. At roughly one inch by one inch in size, the 2D code is able to fit more data than on a standard barcode. In the case of films, this could mean trailers or unreleased material that only becomes accessible through scanning the QR code.
The past few years have seen a rapid increase in the use of QR codes and movie promotion. It seems that every poster these days features this little box of fuzz but how many people are actually whipping out their smart phones to access the information? According to a survey taken in June of last year, 14 million mobile users in the U.S. — 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience — scanned a QR code on their mobile device. The study found that a mobile user that scanned a QR code during the month was more likely to be male (60.5 percent of code scanning audience), skew toward ages 18-34 (53.4 percent) and have a household income of $100k or above (36.1 percent). The study also analyzed the source and location of QR code scanning, finding that users are most likely to scan codes found in newspapers/magazines and on product packaging and do so while at home or in a store.
Even when something is accessible, even right in front of you, it may not be so accessible. A smart phone is the tool which allows the QR code to work. That being said, if the mobile doesn’t have internet access then scanning the code becomes a bit of a moot point as you will have to wait until you can establish a connection either at home or public Wi-Fi. This tends to defeat the purpose of information on the go.
Last year, the standout favourite from the Sundance Film Festival was Martha Marcy May Marlene featuring a breakout performance from the then unknown younger sister of the Olsen twins, Elizabeth. Fox Searchlight produced the film and decided to shun the traditional practices of promotion for a QR code campaign — the first of its kind by Searchlight. This unlikely method fit well for the film considering its dark subject matter that might not take to a mass audience. The codes, which could be found on posters, theatre marquees and coasters in New York City and Los Angeles, led users to two separate trailers for the film. What’s more, the QR codes acted as its own promotional artwork and featured the faces of Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes behind the snow-white pixilation.
When you go to the cinema these days, it is pretty easy to see that QR codes continue to nudge their way into the public eye. Entering a Cineworld, the first thing one is bombarded with is a slew of posters marketing the films currently in theatres as well as those to arrive in the coming months. Upon a closer look it’s easy to see the poster has more to it than contrasting colours to entice the ocular receptors, one must simply take the time to see the whole poster. In the bottom corners is where you’ll find the QR codes that take about two seconds to scan revealing additional information on the movie that seems to have already grabbed your attention.
While strolling through Glasgow, it’s nearly impossible to walk more than a city block without seeing a QR code somewhere along the street. I even found one QR code tacked on to a small business card featuring a scantily clad buxom blonde with the tagline of “Scotland’s Best Lapdancing Nightclub.” There really seems to be no limit on what these codes can be used to promote. I’d be happy to tell you what this particular code led me to except that the link I was directed to didn’t actually work. Sorry fellas.
Find out what more I have to say when Part two of this article goes live tomorrow.