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Archive for December, 2010

Scan to see if this QR is BS

After more than 15 years in mobile technology, it’s easy to notice a pattern where a mobile acronym is sometimes promoted as if it was a cure for cancer. Result? Unmet expectations and a sense that mobile is hyped – or simply doesn’t work.

I’ve just read an article in Retail Customer Experience about the use of QR codes in DOOH and have to call out the simple and glaring fact that it’s complete BS.

I hope that the technology was misunderstood rather than being hyped – but it’s still a problem for folks in DOOH pitching anything “mobile” as it can only confuse or disappoint customers who might now expect something from QR codes that they will never get.

In layman’s terms, a QR code (QR stands for Quick Response) is simply a method of getting a webpage’s url from a static object like a poster, to a user. They’re cool for sure, but according to the article, QR codes now have interactive, 2-way, location-based qualities.

Claim #1:(In relation to the company’s QR application.) “And since the phone is aware of location and who you are and the time and the weather and the city you’re in, we can actually send very specific location-based information to that particular user.”

Why Claim #1 is BS: Even when a phone is aware of your location, applications don’t automatically get that information. Even when applications have access to local/personal information, the user has to agree to that information being accessed.

Claim #2: Kombi and EnQii showcased the ability for their app to “announce” to a store that an individual consumer is approaching, “and have that influence what’s happening on the digital screens in the store and have the screens be able to push back to the phone synchronized offers,” turning the consumer’s smart phone into “an intimate interaction device.”

Why Claim 2 is BS: This is nothing to do with QR codes, is really misleading and is illegal without the users explicit permission. I wrote about this in my post Minority Report Is Not The future Of Advertising.

Claim #3: Now retailers and marketers will be able to use rule-based, one-on-one communications with the consumer that is based on knowing, not guessing, who the consumer is, where they are and what they need, while also using the correct language, lifestyle imagery and loyalty discount if applicable, Eisenhauer says.

Why Claim #3 is BS: There is no way of knowing WHO the user is simply via a QR code being scanned. The user needs to opt-in to a promotion and give permission to the marketer to user their info.

In my humble opinion, a QR code might be a sexier way to promote an URL but it is not A two-way integration of digital signage and mobile (which was the title of the post).

QR codes and DOOH might not even be good bedfellows: When used in DOOH, a QR code requires a fair amount of time and real-estate on a screen – because the user needs to see (and be close enough to scan), recognize and be motivated to scan the code – and have a phone and application capable of scanning the code. Allow at least 30 seconds for that process (See my post, 15-seconds-or-more-part-2 on the place-based mobile user experience). A simple url can be equally tracked and would need no more than 5-10 seconds to read and remember.

Now don’t get be wrong – I love these technologies – but I spend a reasonable portion of most client meetings undoing hype and clarifying misinformation.

Bottom line – it’s might be cool to scan a QR code, visit a website on your phone, wave it around at your friends or show it to the person on the register to redeem an offer. But sometimes it’s easier for the marketer to display Go To WWW.WEBSITE.COM/OFFER to get your offer.


In 15 Seconds Or More Part 1, I covered the three different types of place-based social media. In Part 2, I covered the seven steps in the user engagement path. In this final excerpt of the white paper of the same name (I’ll have to get around to finishing it now!), I’ll cover how place-based social media maps to different digital out-of-home channels.

Not all place-based social media is applicable to all channels. Some channels only have short dwell times or content loops (e.g. gas pumps) while others have longer dwell times and content loops (e.g. bars and events).

A guide to the type of place-based social media best suited to specific digital out of home channels can be seen in Fig 1 below.

Fig.1. Mapping Place-Based Social Media to Channels (Click to enlarge).

For short dwell times, or content slots of a maximum of 15 seconds, I’d recommend using passive place-based social media (e.g. displaying localized Twitter messages about a city, sports/team or news.) Zoom Media and Marketing Sport’s Bites and RMG Networks’ NYTimesToday.com are examples of passive applications built by LocaModa designed to grab attention and inform and/or entertain. True to their passive nature, these applications do not have call to action so do not support any DOOH user interactions.

For longer dwell times and content slots of 15-30 seconds, DOOH networks can use active place-based social media that support user participation features, subject to the capabilities of the DOOH network. As previously described, active place-based social media can be influenced by the DOOH audience but not in real time – either due to limitations of infrastructure or time required by brands/venues to ensure content is adequately filtered, moderated and/or curated. Example applications include trending Twitter topics or changes in existing accounts such as celebrities, to show which celebrities are more or less popular. Such applications can be used in supermarket check-out lines to entertain shoppers as described in this post about LocaModa and PRN.)

For long dwell times and content slots over 30 seconds, DOOH networks can use interactive place-based social media. Interactive applications include real-time Twitter, text/photo-to-screen, real-time polls, and check-ins (e.g. displaying check-in info and tips for services such as Foursquare, Facebook Places or Gowalla). Well designed and inexpensive moderation/curation tools make interactive applications easy to deploy these days.

There are plenty of application examples available via the LocaModa App Store and there will be more examples and information in the white paper which I’m aiming to finish before the end of this month.


Nearly two years ago (Feb 2008), LocaModa launched Jumbli – a mobile and web based word game that was the first cross-channel game to use DOOH and Facebook. Today, Jumbli is still going strong on over 1,000 U.S. bar and cafe screens and in Times Square.

When we launched the game, the first sponsor was AT&T and during their sponsored month, we saw over 300,000 plays and reported that the top “interactive cities” (measured by the percentage of total mobile plays) were: LA 18%, Boston (17%), New York City (17%), and Chicago (10%).

That’s old news – but hang in there… We have Jumbli running on a loop on one of the screens at Loca HQ, and it’s surprising that people are still playing the game (90% via Facebook) from all corners of the world and at all times of the day and night.

Just how much time are the top players spending on Jumbli? As you can see from the above table (click to enlarge), the top player has so far spent the equivalent of 48 days of continuous play!

That’s a lot of time for a word game invented for DOOH screens.

More interesting info on Jumbli can be seen from the Facebook demographic data above (again, click to enlarge) which tells us that outside of USA, Philippines is the top country, then UK. And the top cities are Makati Quezon City and Jakarta, followed by New York. Well that was unexpected!

By the way – KenRandall, ranked #9 in the Jumbli top 10, is my Dad, and now I know he spends way too much time most mornings (from London) being distracted by Jumbli. 28 days to be precise!