Scanning bar codes such as Microsoft Tags or QR codes with mobile phones is a popular trend in print advertising. With 1 in 12 magazine ads currently containing an action code, the written press digitally reinventing itself.

American Magazines Increasingly Adopting Mobile Action Codes


Despite the written press going through hard times, some of the top American magazines are starting to leverage mobile action codes as a way to keep readers engaged and build brand loyalty using several platforms. Located within advertisements, mobile action codes allow consumers to use their mobile phone to scan the printed bar code and then be redirected to a web page to receive additional product information, watch behind the scenes videos in regards to a product, enter a sweepstakes, or receive a coupon, for example. Mobile action codes provide readers a more interactive and compelling experience, from printed magazines to online resources and features. In a recent study conducted byNellymoser, researchers found that from Q1 to Q4 in 2011, mobile action codes rose from 352 to 1899 among the top 100 U.S. magazines, an increase of 439%.

QR Codes and MS Tags Lead the Market

The study reveals the main industries that commonly use social codes were the beauty, home, and fashion, with the top brands being John Frieda, L’Oreal, and Cuisanart respectively. Out of the possible types of action codes printed in magazines, 97% were either QR Codes or Microsoft Tags. QR codes are two-dimensional bar codes which use matrices for scanning whereas MS Tags uses a high-capacity color barcode that can be used in low light. Overall, QR codes experience a more ubiquitous use, representing 72% of all action codes. Though Microsoft Tags only accounted for 25% of overall action codes, they were the primary choice for editorial and publisher use 163 of 174 editorial codes in Q4 2011 being Microsoft Tags. In spite of this, QR codes remain the more preferred method of mobile action code usage in magazines.

Branding and Sweepstakes Primary Goal

Instead of magazine readers being sent to a standard website after scanning a code, 54% of all action codes used a video to target consumers, being the most popular method of branding. Examples include showing behind-the-scenes product information, a how-to video, or an entertaining showcase. Another method of creating a mobile experience that engages the reader is using sweepstakes, which is a growing trend that allows users to enter their information to possibly win products. Once a consumer has already scanned an action code, user’s entry data is stored, thus facilitating the process the next time a consumer scans a product from the same company.


By Marcus Burke