Was There Any Planning for FOX Codes?

Recently, I wrote about FOX Broadcasting Company's QR code campaign called FOX Codes, and now that I have seen printed pieces of the campaign I still question its design and execution.

One of the three television programs that are featured in the campaign is Lone Star. Displayed in the lower left hand corner of this magazine ad (see left) is the "FOX Code" and caption "For Smartphones." As a reader of the ad, what am I to think? Regardless of whether or not I have a smart phone, what am I supposed to do? There is no explanation of the code and there are no instructions. And, if I did not have a smart phone, am I just out of luck with respect to being able to make use of the code and benefit in whatever form FOX intended? Or, am I supposed to go to the company's website and search my way through to the Lone Star site to see what I might be missing all because I don't have a smart phone? In any of these scenarios, it does not seem as though FOX is making it easy for readers of the ad to interact via the code.

Also, this is a right page magazine advertisement with a code displayed in the left hand side, which means the code is up against the spine of the publication. Why wouldn't the designer place the code above the time and date icon in the opposite corner, so as a reader thumbs through the magazine there is a better chance that the code will catch his/her eye? I only spotted the code because 1) I am already aware of the campaign and 2) I am purposely looking for 2D codes.

Another printed piece that I have seen is a billboard for the show Glee (see top image below). While it was known that FOX would be utilizing a variety of channels to promote the FOX Code campaign, do they really expect people to scan the code off billboards like this? What? You could not find the QR code. Look in the lower left hand corner. See it now (see bottom image below)?

What was the creative designer/team thinking when designing this billboard? The overall size of the billboard is about 4x6 feet, while the QR code is about 6x6 inches. Surely the creative designer must have known where the billboard would appear (this is on the outside of a bus stop shelter) and, if that's the case, do they really think the code is in an optimal location to 1) be noticed and 2) be easily scanned? Again I only noticed the code because I know to look for it.

My question to FOX...what objectives do you have for this campaign and can they possibly be met given the fact that the code is not the focal point of the creative, there is no call to action on the code and there are no explanations or instructions for the code?


  1. I'm of two minds...

    First, the constant placement of QR codes in the Lower Left Hand corner of a piece of Art always makes it feel like an after-thought and something the Art Director didn't want to even bother with trying to make integral to the piece.

    It is not an invitation to expand and bridge to a mobile experience. It's an ugly little black and white box.

    On the other hand, a piece of Art has to do the job it's supposed to do while you have the eyeballs in front of you. Forget the bridge to mobile, it's not guaranteed. But, the eyeballs that are there, you must "sell."

    The notion that a QR Tag isn't front and center, and may not have explicit instructions all over the place may not be a bad thing. Early adopters know what to do. Part of the perk of being an early adopter is that "you know" and "others don't." So, letting people come to the technology on their own terms and not giving them pablum does make sense. These campaigns are NOT designed to attract everyone. They are slowing building up a base of people who will expect and look forward to an extended experience from print-to-mobile.

    I'm suggesting that you don't want to talk-down to the early adopters. Let them bring others into the fold. If you lose them, the explicit instructions aren't likely to attract new users. QR use may expand on more of a person-to-person recommendation (I'm avoiding the word "viral"). It may not grow from the art/design/instructions as much as from one person showing another how "cool" something is and helping them download a Reader.

    That's a slow way to go. But, very powerful when it works.

    Now, I don't think the GLEE ad had any deep thinking going on at all. It was a throwaway. But, it still might work. The idea of "discovering" hidden QR Tags may be more effective than making them really big with step-by-step instructions on how to use them.

  2. Anonymous: Once again, your comments make a great deal of sense and help me, and perhaps others, see things regarding 2D in a different perspective. Yes, I can understand how early adopters don't need to be preached to or educated, etc., but how long will the process (i.e., to reach the tipping point) take if companies want to take this ("viral") approach?

  3. Well, it's the proverbial "how long is a piece of string?" thing.

    We don't know.

    But, what I would venture is that it won't be the QR Code design, placement or instructions that create the first mainstream success.

    It will be the content and experience that is accessed via the QR Tag that triggers demand and interest. Basically, who will really create a campaign that naturally extends and encourages users to move from real-world to mobile device, where their time and effort results in them sharing this with Others and demanding more?

    No one is creating instinctual and relevant mobile experiences off a QR Tag. They are providing or pushing data. They are not engaging at a "mobile experience" level.

    Do that, and perhaps we'll see wide adoption, even if the Tag itself is buried in the lower left hand corner of the real world art.

  4. Take a break.... Qr-code is a step. Think image recognition without code and let the advertizing message call the action !

    http://www.doog.mobi (France)
    http://www.kooaba.com (Switzerland)
    http://www.snaptell.com (USA)

  5. Interesting points to consider no doubt. So let's add another wrinkle... With QR Codes there are a few different readers out there and not necessarily compatible with the QR Code being read. (meaning that what the user experiences is not necessarily what the creator intended) Any thoughts on a simple way to differentiate these readers? Or am I just being ignorant and missing something?

  6. Cdoble: Thank you for commenting...I believe the easiest way to handle this is to provide the URL or name for the specific reader app that is associated with the code. By nature of the proprietary codes this is what's done and it should be done for the open source codes as well. And when I say provide, I mean in the explanation and instruction part of the marketing collateral/advertisement where the code is displayed.