Oct 262010
QR code ad in Luzern/Switzerland
Image by gaku. via Flickr

SHARON BOLTON spotted “those funky tags” — known formally as two-dimensional bar codes — when she took her college-age daughter to catch a train at the Rensselaer rail station in Albany last week.

“I looked up and saw these little black-and-white boxes on the lime green wall,” said Ms. Bolton, a graphic artist from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., “and right away I knew they were those funky tags where you click and connect to a Web site.”

She was one of the 4,500 people daily riding Albany’s buses or passing through its rail stations that are the focus of a test of the visibility and effectiveness of 2-D bar code technology. The promotion is being conducted by the Lamar Advertising Company, one of the country’s largest outdoor advertising businesses.

Albany’s transit system has been blanketed with the bar codes — also called quick response or QR bar codes — which consumers can scan with their smartphone and, within seconds, connect to a Web site, photo or video. In the Albany test, users access QRiousAlbany.com, where they can register for a contest to win an iPad.

“Several national clients asked us about using this technology in their advertising, so we decided to see how well it works,” said Clifford B. Wohl, vice president and general manager of Lamar Transit Advertising, the part of the company dealing with transit systems.

Bar code campaigns are cropping up in other transit hubs, as well. In Denver International Airport, for example, Colorado-based FirstBank began to offer this month a free download of an e-book to passengers scanning the bar code on posters mounted in terminal corridors.

The posters say “free books,” and mobile phone users scanning the code — a scattering of black-and-white boxes inside a larger square — are linked to a Web page with several e-book choices that can be downloaded at no cost. In the first two weeks, the most popular titles were “The Art of War,” “Treasure Island” and “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,” according to Matt Best, a spokesman for the bank’s advertising agency, TDA Advertising & Design, in Boulder, Colo.

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