Monday, 29 November 2010

Waitrose includes QR code in TV ad. Great News! Well, err, actually...

This weekend Waitrose ran what has been touted as a UK first - a TV ad including a QR code call-to-action.  That's pretty big news isn't it?  Well, I guess so yes.  But not for the right reasons...

For those that haven't seen it, the ad shows Delia Smith (Norwich's most famous daughter) showing us how to cook Roast ribs of beef with Yorkshire pudding

There it is.  An Epiphany for Mobile Marketing.  The defining point in the acceptance of a mobile call-to-action in what is, one of the most jealously guarded pieces of advertising real-estate.  Mobile has reached the big-time.  Everyone in the Mobile industry should raise a toast.

Well... err... I don't think so...

When I heard about this on Friday I got a little bit angry.  In fact, I needed coaxing down from the light fittings by one of the Account Manager here.  Why?  Because it it this kind of inappropriate use of Mobile that really really riles me.  As far as I am concerned, it is another example of what I mentioned in my post back in August about the number of poor executions of Mobile in marketing.

Let me explain...  The ad is very much in keeping with the recent Waitrose ads - one of Delia or Heston showing a 35 second recipe which, obviously, needs a series of ingredients from Waitrose which are nicely bundled up in-store for you.  As I understand it, the run has been very successful for them and an effective response to the "food as sex" M&S ads.  And if you watched the video, you will probably have noticed a funny looking square in the final frame.  Here it is again:

There, in the final frame is a QR (quick response) code.  A 2-dimensional barcode that, when scanned by an application on a mobile phone can include plenty of information (such as a contact record) and do plenty of things (like auto create an SMS), but is most frequently used to launch the phone's browser to a particular URL.

So let me explain with why this isn't as good as it should be...

The QR code is on-screen for 2-3 seconds and, as you can see, is accompanied by absolutely no explanation.  So given this, who could respond?  Well, you're looking at smartphone users (c.30% of the phone-owning population) who either already know what a QR code is, or are so intrigued by the funny looking square that they do some research to find out about it, and who have (or know that they have) a barcode-reading app on their device.  Oh, and they have to get their phone, open the app and scan the barcode within 3 seconds.

When it comes to CTAs, particularly mobile ones, I like to apply what I call the "Bedford Test" - I like to imagine that were I to walk into Bedford town centre (the nearest town to where I live) and ask a random selection of the people that I come across what a QR code is, would they know what to do.  Well, what do you think?  Does this pass the Bedford Test?  I don't think so.

So, just taking the ad and the placement of the QR code at face value, I wonder who the target consumer is?  If it's Digital Executives based in London then we're all good.  If it's 35-45 year old females then we're not so good...

Ok, so let's assume that the consumers are savvy in this kind of thing, and are able to scan the code using their phone in the 3 seconds that is available to them (or have Sky+).  What happens?  Given there is no explanation, you may assume that you get pushed to the URL that is alongside it in the ad (and is not mobile optimsed BTW).  Nope.  You get pushed to a URL to download their Christmas app.  It's pretty clever in that if you have a supported device (iPhone or Android only) you get pushed to the app in the appropriate app store/market.  But what if you don't have an iPhone or Android device (there are more smartphones that aren't than are...)?  You get pushed to a page like this:

* Sorry for the poor image quality.  It was from an N97 after all...

Basically, a page called "Other phones", that says the Christmas app is not supported on your phone.  Oh.  Thanks for that Waitrose!

So, in short, it'll generate a low response rate and for those that do respond, a fair proportion are likely to get a poor user experience.

There's a few (kind of) counter arguments that have been levied at me over the last few days, so let me address these:

But this is great for Mobile.  It's a mobile CTA on TV.  Think about the exposure.
Well, I can't argue that the exposure is large.  But that is the frustration - there have been a significant amount of projects that I have been involved in where we have deployed something really nice but which has suffered because the client has failed to back it with activity to drive awareness or activity.  ATL media space is jealously guarded and there is often a real reluctance from the lead agency to include a mobile call-to-action.  So when you do get the chance, you should use it wisely - it's like being given a test drive in a F1 car and crashing on the first corner.  If the activity is going to be measured on response, then there is a danger that a poor response will result in all Mobile being tarred with the QR-brush and being consigned to BTL comms.

The exposure at image this gives to Waitrose is great.
If Waitrose want exposure in the Mobile or Digital press then fine, this may very well give them what they want.  However, I've also seen an awful lot of "why oh why" type comments from the Twitterati...  But I would be very surprised if there isn't a metric around response rates (this is a direct response CTA after all) and I would also be surprised if it meets it.  As I argue above, if you've got the chance to include a Mobile CTA, please use it more wisely.

But QR codes are cool.  Everyone is talking about them and they're going to be huge.
No they're not.  And no they're not.
QR are codes are a nice mechanic, they're a quick and easy way to drive users to an online destination.  Used at the appropriate time, in an appropriate way they can be very effective.  But they are not widely recognised and the broad consumer understanding doesn't exist - the UK isn't like Japan (where I've seen QR code tattoos!), and the uptake of QR codes will only ever be slow.  Let me dispel the thought that these are cutting edge - does anyone remember The Sun trying to introduce them into the mainstream and including a pull-out all about QR codes?  In 2007!  I just love the line "your technology-crazy Sun is going to be at the forefront of the revolution".  If the combined force of The Sun and Keeley don't manage to bring them to the fore of the collective consciousness then I'm not sure what will...

So what would I have done?

Pretty simple really, I'd have included an SMS call to action "Text WAITROSE to 8NNNN":
- Everyone with a phone can send an SMS (it is the only killer-app for mobile) and so no-one is excluded.
- It is memorable, so the consumers don't have to grab their phone and respond whilst the ad is on-screen.
- It allows you to respond to the consumer via SMS, meaning you can set the consumers expectations with your reply.
- You start a conversation - you've got their mobile number and so can have a dialogue with them, and so engage with them in other ways.

At it's simplest level, SMS is the most democratising of channels, as everyone can engage if they want to.  After all, what does using a QR code say to Waitrose's customers?

Surprisingly, I don't like knocking other Mobile activity.  But equally, I do like to see it done well as, for whatever we say, it is still an industry that is fighting hard to be recognised alongside other channels.  And so because of this, everything that "we" do, on whatever scale, needs to be as appropriate and effective as we can make it...

UPDATE: My latest post discusses how Sky TV have done a far better job of executing a QR code campaign:

Friday, 19 November 2010

Is O2 More finally living up to its name?

Mobile operators are in a unique position.

They hold a wealth of information about your mobile usage which means that, as consumers increasingly use their mobiles for more and more, they are subsequently able to derive greater insight into the individual, their habits, and preferences than ever before.

Typically this information is jealously guarded by the mobile operators - it is, after all, one of their key differentiators in an ecosystem where they are being squeezed by device manufacturers such as Apple and Nokia on the one hand and service providers such as Google (and Apple again) on the other.  In the era of the smartphone and tablet; the hyper-connected world of social-networks, apps and data services, carriers cannot afford to sit back and watch as they become little more than dumb pipes.  Mobile ISPs.

Indeed, I am sure that it is with this in mind that they consider the outlay that they would need to make in order to implement the next generation of mobile networks, LTE, as without an increase in mobile bandwidth the clamour for, and use of, WiFi with mobile devices will rise - resulting in their networks being bypassed and the data available to them being reduced.

Network logos

Of course, the carriers have recognised that they need to share some data in order to help to stimulate the market.  Without the insights for media planning that is provided by GSMA Mobile Media Metrics, the pooling of mobile browsing data from the five UK carriers, it would be difficult to convince media planners of the viability of the medium.  However, it is important to note, that this information is completely anonymised, meaning that insights are aggregated to a level well away from the individual.

Which means that the carriers retain their differentiator.  Consumer data.

And so some of the carriers are turning this information into a revenue stream by using it, and any explicit preferences that have been provided, in order target marketing messages to their subscribers - indeed, this was the founding premise behind the MVNO Blyk when it was launched in 2007 (although this turned out not to manage to sustain them well enough).  It is important to note that carriers are not "selling" their subscriber's data, they are offering brands and advertisers the opportunity to market to their base with defined defined targeting parameters (e.g. males, in London, who have indicated that they like sport).  In addition, such programs are opt-in and contact rules are applied to prevent any bombardment of messages.

Beyond Blyk, the notable programs are those run by Orange (Orange Shots) and O2 (O2 More).  Now, having been an O2 subscriber since I first had a mobile phone in 1999 - of course it was BT Cellnet in those days - I cannot comment on the consumer experience for Orange Shots so in this post I'll restrict myself to comment on O2 More, to which I signed up in December 2009.

Dressed up as a service for consumers "about giving you offers we know you'll love", up until the last week or so, I have been decidedly unimpressed with what I have been sent.  The messages have been sent patchily, one per day for 3-4 days and then nothing for a fortnight, and pretty much all of the offers irrelevant (although of course that could be blamed on the preferences that I selected).  The absolute nadir of my experience came when I was sent an offer for maternity wear (I certainly didn't opt in to that!).  To be fair I was sent an apology message, but was then sent the same message again.

Twice.  A week or so later.

However, the previous three offers that I have been sent in the last fortnight have all been notable - not only because of the brand and the nature of the offer, but also because of the their executions and two of them for good reasons...:

1. Starbucks

Firstly, this was the first MMS that I received from O2 More.  It wasn't great - a simple static image that was not tailored to my device, but it was ok.  The offer was a discount on a drink, their Via product, and the impressive element was that this utilised location.  The MMS didn't just tell me about the offer, it also told me address of the nearest Starbucks from where I could redeem the voucher.


Now this wasn't the nearest one to my house - but the nearest one to where I was when I received the MMS (if you're interested, it utilised the behind-the-scenes pull nature of MMS to calculate my location from the network cell I was connecting to and customise the MMS text accordingly).

Location has become one of the hot-topics of mobile in recent months so it is great to see this leveraged for more than display advertising and search.  A push offer that becomes all the more compelling by telling me where I could redeem it.

Unfortunately, the main criticism that I have of this is that the voucher included a generic redemption code, meaning that apart from measuring the volume of response, and being able to make some inference based on the locations at which the redemptions were made, there is little post-campaign insight that can be made.

2. Tesco Direct

I blogged while ago about the work that Tesco is doing in mobile, in many respects setting a benchmark for other retailers.  It was reported on the 8th Nov, that they have launched an mCommerce mobile-optimised site for their non-food division Tesco Direct.  Again, it's not the prettiest of sites, but it's there and it works.

Clearly they are supporting this launch with activity to drive traffic as I was sent an SMS via O2 More, with an offer of £5 off a basket of £25 or more.  The mechanic was straight-forward - a link in the SMS, driving me through to the Tesco Direct mobisite.

What pleased me about this, besides the simplicity of the offer and mechanic, was that it was completely trackable - the offer required me to use a voucher code at the checkout.  I cannot be certain but I would hope that this code was unique to me and so means that O2 are able to learn as much as possible about who redeems the code, when they do it and maybe even what they bought.  It sounds a bit creepy but it is the lack of post-campaign insight that is the failing of far too many pieces of mobile activity (Starbucks included).

3. Gap  

And finally, just this Wednesday, I was sent another SMS from O2 More - this time for Gap.  A whopping 30% off anything at any Gap store.  To be honest, other than the brand, the only thing of note about this was negative...

Firstly, it only included a generic voucher code.  Your typical Gap discount that often does the rounds on email and serves only to drive footfall in store, with the only measure being general uplift and offer redemption.

And secondly, the voucher was to be accessed via a link in the SMS clicking through to a mobisite.  But to redeem it, I had to print it out and take it in-store.  From my mobile...  Now, I may be able to work out a way of doing that, but I'm not convinced your average O2 subscriber would.  This mechanic may work for email vouchers, which you receive on your PC and so are connected to a printer, but it is either laziness or stupidity (and perhaps both) not to recognise that the mechanic would need to be adjusted for mobile.  Did the campaign manager at O2 not read the SMS copy and think to point out that you can't print direct from a mobile?

It does a real dis-service to the channel to use such a mechanic that is bound to under-perform and so risk alienating a brand from mobile as a result!

So I guess that for completeness, I should complete this post by answering the question posed in the title.  Is O2 More living up to it's name?  Is it offering consumers and advertisers, something that it advantageous to both?

Well, in theory, one should lead to the other - the more attractive the service is to advertisers, the more offers will be available and so it is more likely that consumers will be provided offered that are relevant to them.

Clearly, as brands' recognition that mobile is a viable (significant) channel increases, as will their need to advertise in the medium.  And so it is then, that its capabilities begin to be utilised fully.  With the location-relevant message from Starbucks; and the trackable and (potentially) immediate journey from offer to purchase from Tesco we get a glimpse at how mobile could be used in both an engaging and effective way for push marketing.

So given this, I guess my answer is: maybe.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Why have a mobile call-to-action if your're just going to ruin it?

To cut a long story short, I lost my notebook and figured "Hey, I work in an agency now. I'll get myself a Moleskine".  So I popped out to Ryman's and got myself one of these little beauties.

More exited than I had any right to be, I skipped back to the office and, whilst unwrapping it, caught sight of something pretty novel.

There was a QR code, right there, on the product label.

(Apologies for the crumpled label - like I said, I was very eager to open it up)

I was on the verge of explosion I got so excited.  You just don't see that kind of thing, even these days - a mobile call to action on a product as ordinary as a notepad (even if it was a Moleskine).  Of course, I gave the QR code a bash and sure enough, it directed me the the product page for my chosen notebook (soft cover / plain sheet / black in case you are interested) on

Now, I can accept that this took me to their Global site rather than their UK specific site - I presume that they ship the product to numerous nations so they should err on the side of caution there.  And I am also ignoring the fact that there was absolutely no explanation as to the purpose of the QR code - it was just there.  But  what I cannot accept is that the site that you are directed to is in no way mobile optimised.  It just takes you to the same page that you'll see if you click on the link above.

So, to reference my title, why the bloody hell bother?

I can kind-of follow the thought process that says that if a user has a device with a QR code reader, then it will be more capable of browsing.  But do they not realise that most (if not all) Nokia S60 devices ship with a QR code reader?  Have you tried any serious browsing on one of those...?  My other gripe about this site is that it had no transactional capability (randomly, unless I wanted to visit the Italian version).  Why is this not a push to an online destination with the capability to purchase another (and take the retailer out of the equation and increase your margins)?

So, what I am now struggling to understand is why include a QR code at all.  There is no reference on the packaging to an online destination other than this, so they clearly want/expect mobile traffic.  Which just confuses me more - they are actively encouraging mobile traffic but then not providing a destination that either provides an optimal browsing experience, or the most likely functionality that a consumer would want.

So from my initial excitement, I am afraid this is a bit of a #fail for Moleskine I am afraid.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Can anyone else feel the momentum in mobile?

A little over a week ago I wrote a post about how brands, agencies and the mobile industry in general needs to stop regarding the "mobile internet" as something distinct and unique, as this only serves to continue the isolationism that all too often is projected by the industry.

After all, it's just the internet.

The key point being that consumers don't differentiate so why should we?  Those that are in the know may understand that there are some fundamental differences between both the way that different devices access an internet site/page and what a consumers motivation/needs are when doing so - but any differentiated treatment based on the device should be completely hidden from the user and their experience should be seemless.  It's like suggesting you should drive a car differently on the basis of whether there is unleaded, diesel or 4-star (maybe LPG would be a better example) in the tank.

Increasingly, brands need to try and operate in that space that is the union of innovation and inclusivity in order to achieve this (I'll re-print my canny diagram that best illustrates this space below):

Well, blow me, Tesco are only going and helping to set the pace aren't they? 

Tesco you say?  Yes indeed.  Tesco.

The NMA today reported that the world's third largest retailer has launched its first transactional mobile website, an optimised version of Tesco Direct, their non-food operation.  This follows swiftly on the heels of the launch of the Tesco mobile apps for food purchases - currently on both Ovi and iPhone (somewhat notably, Tesco chose to launch on the Ovi, which provides broader reach, before a "cooler" iPhone version).  So if you go to on your mobile, you'll get redirected to the and be able to browse and purchase as you see fit.  


Of course, this move sits as part of a wider strategy within Tesco as they look to branch out into other markets that are currently dominated by the likes of Argos and Amazon (both of whom have mobile on their agenda too of course), but it does serve to demonstrate how important it is to support browsers using a mobile device.  Tesco have stated that 7% of traffic to Tesco Direct was from a mobile device (it would be interesting to know if this includes tablets) and that this has grown by 300% over the last year.  It is that kind of evidence that all brands, not just those with the big kahunas like Tesco, will need to take heed of or risk being marginalised in an increasingly digital, and mobile device centric, future.

Note: Whilst I am very pleased to see what Tesco are doing, the fact that their main website ( is not optimised for mobile devices, is a black mark I'm afraid.  But maybe I shouldn't be so fussy...