Yearbooks: Interactive Ads Kick Up Memories

Smartphone

High school and college yearbooks can now utilize video, opening up a new ad opportunity. The system is reasonably simple: a person points a smartphone at a page and a related video pops up. It dovetails with the video world students have grown up in.

QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) power what yearbook publisher Balfour is referring to as an "interactive memories" option. The barcodes that look like an intricate maze allow a user to experience additional content with a point-and-click app. They have become increasingly popular in ads in magazines, which also are looking for ways to turn print into something more dynamic.

In Balfour's case, the option might include a code on a yearbook sports page, where a video of a memorable touchdown would appear instantly on the aimed phone. One high school in Kentucky is considering placing a code on its cover, providing access to a video of the commencement ceremony. The technology is in testing and is expected to be rolled out in full next school year.

Many schools rely on advertising to help fund the yearbooks. A local auto advertiser, for example, could place a code on its ad that could lead to a video of a new model. Ads that feature a family member congratulating a graduate can lead to a home video of when the graduate was young.

Balfour, which has been publishing yearbooks since 1939, hosts the videos on a secure platform to prevent hacking, where they can be available in perpetuity. The Austin, Texas-based company says it is the first to integrate video in the printed yearbook.

Alyce Alston, Balfour CEO and an ex-magazine executive, stated that the aim is "enriching the traditional yearbook experience by bringing sight, sound and motion together and delivering those special memories in formats that are clearly more relevant and in demand by our consumers."

Fenway Partners, a private-equity firm, owns Balfour, as well as 1-800-CONTACTS and Easton Bell Sports, among other properties.

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