Italian Clothes Designer uses QR Code

The Italian children clothes designer, Il Gufo, launched a new magazine ad campaign featuring a QR code, and I'll be darn to know how, if at all, this campaign succeeds. Here's why.

First, the ad is placed on the right-hand side of the magazine, which puts the QR code up against the spine of the book...not the best place to a) see the code when flipping through pages, and b) easily scan the code. If Il Gufo knew they were purchasing right-hand space, which I assume they did, why layout the ad this way? Second, there is no explanation for the QR code, and there are no instructions on how to read the code and download a reader app. Third, and I believe this is the most detrimental to the overall success of the ad, there is no call-to-action for the ad as a whole or tied to the barcode. If this is a pure brand image ad then I can understand no call-to-action, but then I really don't get image ads to begin with. All they do is interrupt, but that's for another discussion.

In the lower left-hand corner of the ad, running vertically, a telephone number is displayed, which I called and got through to the company's U.S. importer in New York. When I inquired about the ad, the woman I spoke with knew what I was referring to and said that I needed to get a ScanLife app to read the code. She did not offer any other information with respect to where I could find the app and what the proper name of the app was, but she did say that the code resolves to a fashion show video featuring the fall season clothes that are now on sale. Ah, another self-promotional corporate video offering very little, if any, value or benefit to the consumer.

After studying this ad, I wonder how much time Il Gufo's marketing team or ad agency really put into this ad and, more importantly, what they expect to get out of it from an ROI perspective. Did they purposely place a barcode with no supportive copy just to alienate those who know about codes from those who don't? Or, did they assume that the U.S. market is as advanced as the European market is with respect to 2D code use? A lot of issues to resolve that I believe a basic course in International Marketing 101 might solve, but again it's hard to tell what the CMO or creative director were thinking.   

Lastly, this is one of the first QR codes from ScanLife that I have seen, as well as one without the ScanLife brand name associated with it.


  1. The convergence of print and mobile is even more oil/water than the early days of video on the internet (conflicts between "interactive" designers and video elements - designers hated the inclusion of video).

    I see the same thing with this ad. You have all these Art Directors, photographers, designers, etc. who are spending a lot of money to create a print ad.

    Then, someone wants a QR Tag within the ad. As a photographer, Art Director (print) you hate the inclusion of this element. It's ugly, it's abstract. It doesn't tell a story. Because you only see it as a design element, not as an extension of the ad itself (because it's not directly related video footage, etc.).

    In many respects, the Art Director is correct. Not only are all of the layout/instruction points valid, but, the inclusion of the QR Tag itself is just plain ugly and a design nightmare within the ad.

    The start black/white overwhelms the soft Brand logo. Even the weight and intent of the ad (girl's eyes) are thrown askew by the QR Tag placement.

    The rule of thumb should be integrate or separate, but, don't plop it over your layout, or you'll defeat the purpose of the original ad itself.

    The real solution is to make a cohesive campaign where the mobile experience is an extension of the print-ad; they are not two separate elements at any point of the design or user experience.

    My guess, the print Art Director and event print Media Buyer are more than pleased to see this fail. That way, they won't have to deal with it again.

  2. Roger - this ad was actually not associated with the ScanLife platform. If you scan it, you will see a short URL which starts with qkd.me, so perhaps that is associated with this company? http://www.quarkode.it/

    The US contact you spoke to probably just has brand awareness of the ScanLife app which can still scan this code, but we had nothing to do with this one (for future reference, our codes would have scn.by as the short domain).


  3. Hi Roger ...

    Great examples of mistakes to avoid when integrating two dimensional (2D) scan codes in U.S. marketing plan. While I agree that the IL GUFO ad should tell you what to expect when you scan the code, I actually liked the fashion catwalk video by the kid models of the IL GUFO outfits.

    I added your IL GUFO example to the (growing list) of examples of my article, Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Integrating Two Dimensional (2D) Codes In Your U.S. Marketing Plans:


    While Google Translate tells me IL GUFO translates to OWL: it might as well translated as ILL GOOF.

    Roger, as always, a huge fan of your 2D Bar Code Strategy news and analysis. And, thank you for making the call to IL GUFO. Clients and their Agencies need to sweet the details.

    Dan Smigrod
    CEO & Chief Creative Officer
    Atlanta, GA


  4. P.S. 'Anonymous' comments brilliantly to your post. I wish s/he would identify themself so we can recognize their awesome contribution to this discussion. (Dan)

  5. Anonymous: Again, thank you for your insight into the way an agency and or corporate creative department might work on a project like this. It's a shame barriers have to be created and turf needs to be protected from one department to another, as opposed to pulling it altogether for the greater good, and the good of the customer. If this mentality continues 2D may not have a long life to live here in the U.S., as you commented on several posts ago.

  6. David: Thank you for the clarification re: ScanLife...I should have done further research.

  7. Dan: Thank you for the comment and support. Yes, mistakes galore, too bad we'll never be able to get response/scan rates from anyone at the company.

  8. Dan: Yes, Anonymous makes wonderful comments here and on other posts, and I have asked to speak with him/her offline, but he/she has shown no interest, which is too bad, but I do wish he/she continues to read the blog, comment and opinionate.

  9. Hi all, Il Gufo is one of our customers (www.quarkode.it). I will investigate about what happened in US. I think there are different agencies because in Europe they've made a very good job: excellent communication and great results. Also will ask them if possible to publish reports.
    Come back soon,

  10. Pierluigi: Thank you for commenting. Would be interested in learning about and sharing what you find out.

  11. @roger -- pleased to see your blog resulting in more conversation and action.

    @smigrod -- thx and back @ ya. I just prefer to keep a low digital profile, no big mystery.

    Aside: typo on my part, it was to read "The stark black/white..." Clearly, the Tag was an afterthought, which never works. They need to design the shoot, the colors, the eye lines, etc. so that a Tag doesn't distract from the emotional intent of the print visual, yet, leads the User to naturally take the next step...not easy...but, that level of advance collaboration is what's needed.

  12. Roger,

    Another great post. The community needs to get over the perceived issues of the "stark" QR image. If an art director takes issue with the code, get a new art director. Coming at us, and fast, are print/mobile connections to the digital world. The creative integration of codes and the emerging potential of image recognition should be within the tool kit of any savvy art director or creative director. Another thought... "Think Mobile First" and your prospective customer won't be left in the mobile void of a ill-planned print campaign. For more on the potential of creative code presentation, http://www.qrmonkey.com/2010/03/16/518/

  13. @davidrogers Interesting, but, I'd posit that a more balanced approach may win more hearts and minds.

    A QR Tag is, generally, an abstract, non-human readable, non-emotional ingredient that is an offering to EXTEND the user's experience to mobile. You can place it in a soft, warm-fuzzy visual, but, you need to consider it at the inception of the design, not desperately seek a place to plunk it down at the last minute. QR Tags to some degree are eye-magnets with no meaning (other than scan me), therefore, you don't want to lose the value (and expense) of the rest of the print material simply to favour the Tag (in my estimation).

    Let's face it, using the IL GUFO example, they designed and incurred expenses (production/media buy) on an ad. You HAVE THE EYEBALLS of the audience right there and then (and, 99.5% will never scan a code) -- that Ad needs to work for you. It needs to work on a stand-alone basis -- and as a Gateway to an extended experience on mobile.

    Art Directors will take time coming around to Tags. It's not just the "creative," it's also about which department gets the media buy dollars, etc. Truly integrated Agencies are rare. Legitimately, any Art Director can make the argument that the print ad has a guaranteed audience, while mobile does not. If the highest scans for a US campaign are 150K right now (I think that's right?), it's a mere blip compared to a National print campaign.

    So, I'd say, think mobile-print concurrently, without favouring one over the other. Make your print work on a stand-alone basis (because, you have the audience's attention) and come up with successful methods to introduce the QR code as a gateway to a wonderful, extended experience (that perhaps concludes with something as pedestrian as an mCoupon). Eventually, it will only be by consuming BOTH print and mobile that an experience is "complete." Whereby, Users will feel they both need, and want, to take the next step...

  14. I agree with all that is being said here and could not have said it any better. 2D campaigns need to be given as much attention and thoroughness as any other marketing campaign, or more so, because the technology, and what is being asked of a consumer, is still so new. Brands are changing consumer habits and patterns, maybe they are not up to it.

  15. HI Interesting comments

    We at Digital Space do not use QR /2D codes codes but Clic2c and digital watermarking , Virtually invisable , covers the whole image and no debate about where to put the QR or 2D barcode..........simple!