x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Print advertising goes high-tech with bar codes

A quick scan through local papers will become more high-tech with the addition of "interactive" bar codes.

A quick scan through the local newspapers will soon become a more high-tech exercise.

Advertisers are starting to feature "interactive" bar codes in newspapers and magazines that readers can scan using their smartphones.

Such "quick response" (QR) codes direct consumers to websites where they are typically offered more information about a product, discount vouchers or other incentives.

Music Master, an MP3 download site that launches on February 1 to serve the Middle East and Levant, said it was one of the first advertisers in the region to use QR codes in a major marketing campaign.

"We're really making QR codes the focus of our advertising campaign," said Edward Bagnall, the marketing and communications manager at Music Master, which is owned by a Saudi company of the same name. The campaign "is one of the first to use it in such a dominant way. It's the focus of the ad."

Music Master, which is building a database of 3 million tracks for legal, paid-for download, yesterday launched its teaser marketing campaign under the slogan "Who is the music master?"

The print advertisements feature a prominent QR code and give consumers the chance to download free tracks if they link Music Master with their Facebook page.

The full campaign will include in-mall advertisements depicting hundreds of QR codes, which consumers will be invited to scan in search of a few that lead to free music downloads.

Mr Bagnall said such technology appealed to the company's target audience.

"Most people nowadays have a smartphone. I think the audience we're targeting, the 16 to 27-year-olds, are all savvy enough to know what a QR code is," he said.

"No one is really doing this in Dubai," he added. "If you scan the QR code, you're instantly taken to the website, so there's no chance that the consumer will forget the website address, or forget to even go there."

Use of QR codes in marketing material and on packaging is common in other markets, especially in Japan, and is starting to be embraced by other companies in the Middle East.

The hotel chain Dusit International said this year it was featuring QR codes in its print advertising in the Middle East. Ajman Bank and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority have also made use of the technology.

Edward Harris, the regional account director at the advertising agency DDB Dubai, which developed the Music Master ads, said while QR codes had been used in previous ads, they had never formed the central part of a Middle East campaign.

"It's a mould-breaking campaign for DDB Dubai and for the rest of the region," said Mr Harris. "It demonstrates that regional advertising can be every bit as clever as that we see coming from top international agencies."

Other executives said the popularity of smartphones in the region meant the use of QR codes in advertising had real potential.

"We had previously proposed the idea to one of our clients, so we believe there is merit in the same," said Charbel Bousraih, the executive creative director at the advertising agency Enjaz, which has offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. "[The audience is] very well versed with mobile technology and gimmicks of this nature."