QR codes (or rather, ‘Quick Response’ codes in long form) have been around for a while. However, they really didn’t become adopted en masse until tons of people around the world ditched their text-based mobile phones and could start scanning QR codes with their shiny, new smartphones, tablets, and connected devices. Unfortunately, in spite of the sheer convenience of QR codes, especially as it relates to their ability to communicate information to consumers with a single snap and click, their novelty wore off—and fast.

Even though QR codes-as-a-new-tech-fad may have fizzled out, the technology itself didn’t go away. In fact, it has remained a mainstay in advertising and marketing since the early 2010’s. Then something happened in 2020 that shook the world to its very core: the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did anyone know that this life-altering global event would also spark the return of QR codes in a pretty massive way. Here’s why...

With many people, at the time, either uncertain about how COVID-19 was spread or living in a state of heightened paranoia, many restaurants—especially quick-service restaurants (QSRs)—decided to ditch paper menus in favor of digital menus. Not only was this a smart choice from a public health and safety standpoint, but it was a great way for businesses to cut back on hard costs at a time when indoor dining was literally nonexistent.

And what better of a way to share these digital menus than via the tried-and-true QR code? So, both while restaurants were offering takeout or delivery only and then even more so once indoor dining slowly crept back into the picture, it wasn’t uncommon to see QR codes adorned on pretty much every storefront, countertop, tabletop, POS, and beyond. After all, they are the perfect contactless technology to avoid the unnecessary spread of the virus while also helping people feel a bit more safe and secure once they’d decided to venture out again. (Now, if only we could snap a QR code to ride public transit, all of our prayers would be answered!)

The good news is: QR codes are still alive and well today—and don’t seem to be leaving our day-to-day lives anytime soon. And now that we’re nearly two years into the pandemic and living in an era when pretty much everyone has a smart device of some sort on them at all times, this once quick-to-fade-into-our-distant-memories technology is having a resurgence that, one would assume, will remain part of our every day ‘digital behaviors’ for years to come.

3 key benefits of using QR codes in OOH advertising

Now that consumers have made snapping QR codes a new daily habit, who’s to say that only restaurants, cafes, and similar businesses can be the biggest benefactors of the technology? Of course, being that we live and breathe out-of-home advertising every day, this got us thinking about how QR codes could be used (once again) even more effectively in OOH ads today.

Here’s what we see as the greatest benefits of QR codes in out-of-home advertising:

1. QR codes fuel engaging user experiences in real-time

Thanks to the advancements recently made in the out-of-home space, we know that OOH ads are powerful tools in a marketers toolkit for driving offline-to-online conversions. But when you slap a QR code on an OOH ad—especially in high ‘dwell time’ OOH ad formats, including bus shelters, street furniture, wild postings, and the like—that conversion moment can essentially happen instantly. And this is a huge ‘win’ for marketers. Whether you want to drive traffic to your website, push app downloads, increase social media followers, or even promote special offers (only available via the QR code), that can all happen in a single point-and-click.

But aside from simply driving traffic—whatever that desired traffic may be—this creates a better overall user experience that immediately immerses consumers in the brand. As you know, sometimes you only have a few seconds to capture a consumer’s attention. By adding QR codes to OOH ads, you can capture their attention with impactful creative and messaging and then give them a way to engage with your brand in real-time before it slips their mind.

2. QR codes allow marketers to create goal-driven OOH ad campaigns

Consider this a bit of a double-click on the above, specifically focused on the conversion moment that happens when consumers point-and-click in real-time. Traditionally, OOH ads only had a second to capture a consumer’s attention, meaning the call-to-action needed to be incredibly simple. Something like “visit our website” or “follow us on social media” was about as much as a brand could do to drive an online conversion.

But QR codes in out-of-home advertising change that dynamic entirely. Now, brands can build unique campaigns—and their related landing pages—to drive specific consumer actions. In other words, QR codes give marketers greater flexibility and creative freedom to build original, out-of-the-box OOH campaigns that can achieve highly targeted goals.

3. QR codes lend themselves to greater measurability

This one is a relative no-brainer but worth mentioning because who doesn’t like data? Every click on a QR code is a preliminary conversion that can then be tracked all the way to making a purchase, downloading an app, accessing a coupon or special offer, following a social media account, or whatever else it is you’re asking consumers to do.

Even more, you can track these codes at the ad level to give you insights into what ad placements, formats, campaign messages, offers, and beyond drove the greatest engagement and conversion. This makes it easier to either double down on the tactics that are working or refine creative in real-time to make it perform even better. However you look at it, QR codes can unlock a new dimension of OOH ad measurability that leads to greater campaign optimization.

A few tips for using QR codes in OOH advertising

Of course, there are a few best practices to follow when placing QR codes into your OOH ads. Here are some handy tips to get you moving in the right direction:

Choose the right size.

Given the fact that OOH ad formats range in sizes—from absolutely gigantic to relatively small—there’s not a one-size-fits-all reference point here. However, a decent rule of thumb is to make sure your QR code is large enough to be scanned from at least seven feet (or more) away. Why? Because consumers won’t always be up, close, and personal with your OOH ads. You need to make sure that, if they’re on the move, the code is easy for them to point-and-click, even if they’re in motion.

For example, on a 55” digital display, you’ll want to consider something 250-300px in sizes (roughly, 6.25-7.5 inches). For large billboards or bus shelters, you’ll need to size up; for small street furniture (think: on-demand scooters), you’ll need to size down. Whatever the case may be, be sure to consider how consumers may interact with the ad—either standing in front of it or perhaps passing by it in their cars—and size up or down your QR code accordingly.  

Place at eye-level.

The easier the QR code is to see, the more likely consumers will point-and-click on it. What, therefore, makes the most sense is to place the QR code at eye-level. Of course, depending on the ad format and its location, that’s not always going to be possible. However, when dealing with ads on digital screens or bus shelters and street kiosks—instances where consumers may actually be at eye-level with the creative—make sure the QR code isn’t way too high or buried down on the bottom.

Use only one code.

A general best practice in advertising is to associate one call-to-action with each ad. Take the same approach with your QR codes. By adding multiple codes, you inadvertently create a hectic user experience that may decrease conversion. Multiple QR codes—just like multiple calls-to-action—make it really hard for consumers to know what to focus on. And as mentioned above, each OOH ad needs to deliver on a single part of your broader campaign strategy. So, make sure that one and only QR code in your OOH ad works hard to achieve those goals.

Focus on formats with greater ‘dwell time’.

OOH ad formats that can capture a consumer’s attention for longer periods of time should be your first choice when it comes to running QR code-driven campaigns. Remember, to get a consumer to point-and-click, you have to first pique their interest with your creative and messaging. Then they still need time to pull out their device and scan the QR code (without any errors). Time is the key here. The ad formats that allow consumers to stop, stare, and engage with the creative will be your highest performers.

Run your next QR code-driven OOH campaign with AdQuick

Hopefully, this has gotten you excited about what else you can do with your out-of-home campaigns in the future. But if, in the past, you’ve focused your attention only on OOH billboard ads and have barely scratched the surface on the broader out-of-home ecosystem, the good news is that our team is here to help. With AdQuick, we not only make it easy to plan, buy, and measure your out-of-home campaigns, but we also have access to nearly every OOH ad unit imaginable in the U.S.—from billboards to street furniture to bus wraps. This basically means that we give you one place to do it all, and with a higher degree of precision than ever before.

To learn more about how AdQuick can breathe new life into your OOH ad campaigns, don’t wait and schedule a demo today.