Magazine pages became increasingly popular places for marketers to slap QR codes last year. A survey of the top 100 U.S. magazines by circulation found the number of “mobile action codes” climbed from 352 in the first- quarter issues to 1,899 in the fourth quarter, for a record total of 4,468 in 2011.
The study by mobile marketing firm Nellymoser underscores that advertisers drove the growth of QR codes in magazine. It notes that in January 2011 there were seven advertising codes for each editorial one, and by September, that ratio had jumped to 25:1. The number of magazine titles with at least one action code hit 90% in May for the first time, and rose to 96% in July.
Nellymoser points to the percentage of magazine pages that include QR codes as a better gauge for tracking adoption because the statistic isn’t as likely to be affected by seasonality or skipped issues. The proportion of pages with codes rose steadily from 3.55% in March to 8.36% in December.
The average number of codes per issue roughly tripled in 2011, rising from 2.3 in the first quarter to 6.5 by year’s end. Nearly all of the codes printed in the top 100 magazines in the fourth quarter were either QR codes (72%) or Microsoft Tags (25%).
So how were the codes put to use? The study found that advertisers and editors are no longer creating codes that send readers to a desktop site. Instead, the goal is to engage users with branding campaigns and product demos, m-commerce initiatives, social media and sweepstakes for building customer databases.
More than half (54%) of action codes featured video for showcasing products, offering behind-the-scenes footage or how-to guides. Nearly a third (30%) of codes were used for list-building, 23% enabled sharing a video or product information via social properties, like Facebook and Twitter, and 19% linked to an e-commerce store.
When it came to ad categories, the study showed nearly 40% of the action codes used in magazine advertising came from companies in three industries: beauty, home and fashion. Companies in these segments also led the way in codes placed in retail stores. In the fourth quarter, electronics vendors, such as Bose and Intel, joined the list of top 10 brands in terms of code usage.
The top 10 magazines by circulation accounted for 28% of all codes (1,255), and most of those were titles targeting women, like InStyle and Lucky.
Looking at placement, 90% of codes appeared at the bottom of the page, the traditional place for ads with calls to action. By the fourth quarter, seven out of 10 action codes were accompanied by information that described what happens after the scan. “This is considered by many to be a best practice and follows the pattern of many other calls to action,” according to Nellymoser.
At the same time, the firm noted a shift away from embellishments, with few codes sporting an adjacent icon. It noted that in the second quarter, for example, nearly half of all codes included an instruction for how to download a code reader. That figure had dropped to 23% by the end of 2011. And hardly any codes were accompanied by an SMS campaign for people who did not have action code readers.