Barcodes Make Print Ads Interactive

Don't refer to this as CueCat: 2.0.

Financial services provider BMO Capital Markets runs a print ad in the Wall Street Journal every Friday. Last week, select versions of the company's regularly scheduled ad featured two-dimensional barcodes placed at the bottom left-hand corner. 

The barcodes, called EZcodes and created by Scanlife, bring readers to a customized Web page that offers additional information touched upon in print creative.

Mobile users must first download a free application at for the ball to start rolling. Consumers then use that App, along with their camera phone, to take a picture of the 2D barcode. Readers are then directed to a designated Web site.

The ad for BMO Capital Markets ran on the front page of the Money & Investing section of Friday's Wall Street Journal.

"Good Health" touted the firm's ninth annual Focus on Healthcare Conference that took place last week in New York.

The ad connected readers to an archived conference page, containing Webcast presentations, research reports and marketing materials.

"We recognize that this technology can help a print ad deliver the interactivity of an online ad," said Kevin Windorf, Director of Marketing & Client Strategy at BMO Capital Markets. "We have a wealth of content to provide to our clients regarding our conferences in particular and our firm in general. Delivering content to our clients' mobile devices helps satisfy their constant need for information," continued Windorf.

Condon + Root Chicago created the campaign and Prometheus Chicago handled the media buy.

Brands such as Citysearch, Nike, Burn Magazine and Citroen have used barcodes in print advertising, but BMO Capital Markets believes it is the first North American investment bank to implement the technology.

BMO Capital Markets is measuring its Web site traffic from multiple fronts to determine how many people visited its site using the ScanLife App, online ads or simply from the company's home page.

8 comments about "Barcodes Make Print Ads Interactive".
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  1. Dean Collins from Cognation Inc, August 10, 2009 at 3:58 p.m.

    Be aware that because Scanlife use a proprietary URL shortener system that if they 'go away' (like for example then all of your deployed codes 'go away' as well.

    It makes far more sense to use an 'open - license free' technology like QR codes that no one can 'take away' from you ever.

    Dean Collins

  2. Craig Rogers from Ocean Street Digital, August 10, 2009 at 4:03 p.m.

    That's so 9 years ago...

  3. Erin Haskell from Crowley Webb & Associates, August 10, 2009 at 4:17 p.m.

    While the technology is interesting, it requires a lot of action on the part of the consumer just to access the content. It's just a fancy way of sending people to a website. I'm sure this technology has its proper usage, but I'm not sure I agree with its use in this campaign. I believe a URL would have sufficed.

  4. Dyann Espinosa, August 10, 2009 at 5:07 p.m.

    Great point. Very important to consider re: proprietary URL shortener.
    The process does seem unwieldy, maybe they were convinced to use it so they could promote being "first" in their category to test it out.

  5. Augie Ray from American Express, August 10, 2009 at 9:01 p.m.

    OK, why shouldn't we call this Cue Cat 2.0?

    The ad could simply provide a URL people type, but instead it:

    - Makes users type a DIFFERENT URL (
    - Find their phone in a list
    - Text a code to a shorcode
    - Download an app to their phone
    - Install the app
    - Take a picture of the barcode

    And THEN, the consumer can get to the information they wanted?

    What am I not getting? Why would this be a positive consumer experience?

    Augie Ray

  6. Ryan McBurney, August 11, 2009 at 1:37 p.m.

    @ Dean - Excellent points. Standards based QR codes are an effective way for advertisers to add interactivity to offline media. Also, QR reader apps are the most popular readers in the world, available for consumers. My company, Mobile Discovery, offers a tool to advertisers to create, manage, and track (open-license free) QR codes.

    Try it out at:

  7. Reid Williams, August 13, 2009 at 9:16 a.m.

    I agree with August Ray and the points of others: Neat technology, but not new, and the execution is questionable.

    However, I predict advertisers and/or large brands will push smartphone makers to equip phones with this technology off-the-shelf.

    Of course, by that time, it won't be barcode scanning apps, it'll be optical character recognition — and we'll be back to running URLs with the ads.

  8. Mark Hendriksen from UpCode Mobile Solutions Ltd., August 17, 2009 at 2:08 p.m.

    Firstly,in regard to the 'comments' - the codes are used predominantly in Japan at the moment and are gathering pace across Europe, the USA and the rest of the world.

    They are not going to 'go away' as apart from Scanbuy, we at UpCode, NeoMedia, 3GVison, Beetagg and others all read QR (or DataMatrix) codes and in fact DM codes are already widely used on packaging.

    If you're interested to know more visit our website and 'news' page an/or do contact me directly with specific questions if you wish to implement Mobile + 2D.

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