Commentary

City Campaign Gives New Meaning To Mobile Advertising

QR Codes/Santiation Truck

QR codes, those little crossword-puzzle-like bar codes, have popped up in a lot of different places -- movie posters, bus stops, magazines and Web sites among them. But not usually the side of 25-ton New York City Sanitation trucks. That's where the city is putting QR codes as part of a broader campaign on TV and online to boost awareness about recycling.

Scanning the QR codes placed on the sides of 2,200 sanitation trucks will give users access to a how-to-recycle video from NYC Media's show "The Green Apple: Recycling." In upcoming weeks, it will then link to a how-to video on recycling from content partner Howcast.

This isn't the first time New York City has used QR codes in a promotional campaign. It put up giant ones on buildings around Times Square during Internet Week, allowing mobile users to get more information about various city services.

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"New Yorkers have already been coming to our channels and our website for who, where, when and why -- now they can add 'how,'" said NYC Media Chief Operating Officer Todd Asher in a statement. "We are also enthusiastic about continuing to use QR code technology and other innovative technology to help get the City's message out."

But it looks as if the brain trust at City Hall has jumped the shark by slapping the codes on its fleet of garbage trucks. Putting the QR codes on moving -- albeit slow-moving -- vehicles, raises the possibility of onlookers getting flattened in the course of trying to learn more about recycling. (The technology requires city denizens get within 12 to 16 feet to scan the codes.) The city has clearly embraced the push for mobile innovation too literally.

Then there's the stench factor. Who wants to sidle up to a garbage truck in the middle of a steamy New York City summer unless it's your job to haul refuse? And isn't it possible you could get in the way of the people trying to do that job as you position yourself and focus your mobile camera to snap a photo of the QR code? Who knows, it could lead to a garbage strike over hazardous working conditions. Then the city would really have an odor problem.

The city is doing a PR push around the recycling education effort, but how many people associate sanitation trucks with advertising? Buses, taxis, pedicabs, yes, but not garbage trucks. It may only be hardcore mobile geeks (or recycling enthusiasts) who even notice the QR codes are there. Someone tell Mayor Bloomberg it's time to go back to the billboard.

1 comment about "City Campaign Gives New Meaning To Mobile Advertising".
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  1. John Parsons from Byte Media Strategies, July 30, 2010 at 5:24 p.m.

    QR Code enthusiasts are on the right track, but there is one major caveat. Creating the tag, while simple, is only the first step; the challenge is the mobile experience behind the tag. Compared to desktop or laptop environments, mobile browsers are a different beast entirely. To successfully build a satisfying mobile Web 'micro site' one must contest with tiny screens, less memory and storage capacity, bandwidth limitations and, above all, the absence of run-time applications and (on Apple devices) Flash. Fortunately, companies like Warbasse Design (http://www.warbassedesign.com) and others are pioneering these issues. It's a brave new world — again.

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