If you read magazines online – on an iPad or other tablet, say – you’ll already be familiar with the ability to instantly watch video related to an article simply be tapping a link. Seems to me it’s a very short leap to simply embedding video clips that automatically play directly within the articles themselves. Or better yet, replacing the still image of an online magazine cover with a video.
In the future, we might think of online magazine covers as the ‘teaser trailer’ to the main story inside. We’re already getting used to six-second video clips thanks to Vine. And animated gifs have been around for far longer. So really, animated magazine covers are simply another venue for this type of video – and very easy to implement thanks to technologies like html5.
Is there an opportunity here for advertisers? Maybe. Depending on the magazine, one might be able to sponsor a cover – although imposing an actual video commercial on the space would very likely be counter-productive. If your product somehow appears as part of a consumer magazine’s cover animation, I could see embedding a link to buy it. And if the cover featured a celebrity wearing or using your product, such a link might work particularly well.
While a picture is worth a thousand words, a video, in this case, might be worth much more.
If you’re a fan of the Canadian sci-fi show Continuum, you’ll know the hero in the show, 2077-era police officer Kiera Cameron (played by Rachel Nichols) wears a cool suit that’s combination computer, ballistic armor, taser, cloaking device and – most importantly for our purposes – LED display. Advertising people would naturally see the possibilities of clothing that could display messages. And guess what: that possibility just got one step closer with this prototype for a programmable LED t-shirt.
Just as a flash mob involves masses of people performing a single action in unison, one could see how an advertiser could display a single message on hundreds of t-shirts across a city, reaching people in places other outdoor advertising can’t. Say you’re the beverage supplier at an outdoor concert and you want to let the audience know where to get your products – or that there’s a special on between sets. T-shirts interspersed throughout the crowd could be your advertising vehicle.
Or one could add a location-based element to the technology, and have t-shirts on a bus route let commuters know that they’re approaching a particular brand of coffee shop or fast food outlet as the bus gets within a certain distance.
Perhaps a brand could give away such t-shirts as a promotion, with the shirt programmed to include the brand logo in whatever image the wearer decided to display.
As with today’s sandwich boards, people would begin to tune out before long – unless the message was interesting or useful enough. And when it is, you’d have a nice way to extend your reach to virtually anywhere there are people.
On a recent trip to New York City I came across an interactive billboard in the Columbus Circle subway station, for Beneful dog food. The billboard uses the same principle as the new breed of motion sensing video games.
In this case, motion sensors in the billboard detect you as you walk by, triggering a virtual dog to come up to the screen. Stop and stand in a designated spot in front of the board, and you can get the dog to “play” with you. For instance, you can pick up and throw a virtual tennis ball, which your dog will go fetch.
I have to admit I didn’t see the connection between playing with a virtual dog and “I should go buy this dog food.” And there were some features I wouldn’t expect busy commuters to bother with, like the ability to customize your dog on-screen. But I like the technology behind this idea. And I think there’s a lot of potential for it in future outdoor installations.
A ski lodge could use this same technology to let you virtually race down their most challenging slope, for example. A tour operator could give you the chance to look out over a sweeping mountain vista or bustling foreign skyline, and even explore landmarks within it. A car maker could let you virtually explore the interior of their latest luxury model, zooming in on key features.
I think the trick is to make the interaction simple, while offering an experience a static display couldn’t do justice to. With such an installation, an advertiser might just start sensing increased motion around their billboard.
It seems I’m coming across more and more interesting uses of QR codes lately. This past weekend I was in a Canadian Tire when I saw a guy with a QR code on the back of his t-shirt. I got him to stop so I could scan the code – and it led to a dead url! Clearly the code was linked to a promotion that had ended. But the company behind the code, Tiipz, does seem to be very much alive. And what they offer is something I hadn’t heard of before.
Tiipz gives local businesses the ability to use QR codes to do market research directly at the point of purchase, with the results available in real-time (they provide other forms of mobile market research too, but it’s the QR code aspect that interests me). Think about it: a retailer could offer customers a simple reward, like a discount, in return for answering a few questions on the spot that would inform any number of business decisions. And all the customer would have to do is scan a QR code displayed at the retailer’s location to access the specific survey, then show their phone, with the confirmation on-screen, to the cashier to get their reward.
These days, companies large and small are turning to social media channels to learn from and respond more effectively to their customers. This strikes me as a smart way to solicit opinions while the subject matter is top of mind.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting uses of QR codes. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered a new QR code sticker on a bunch of bananas I bought last week.
The sticker invites the consumer to turn their bananas into something called yonanas, and provides both a QR code and a url for yonanas.com. Okay, I figured. I’ll bite. So I scanned the code with my smart phone, using the Red Laser code reader app.
First, yonanas are simply frozen over-ripe bananas which have been turned into banana “ice cream” courtesy of a yonana machine – think meat grinder for frozen fruit. Delicious idea. Sadly, the execution fell flat.
First problem: a lack of quality control in the sticker application process meant the QR code was bent around the edge of the banana peel – not scan-able, unless you peel up part of the sticker to get it straightened out.
Worse, the yonanas site was not designed for a mobile phone screen. The web site is the same whether you’re visiting from your computer or your phone. Which made it almost impossible to experience the site properly with a mobile device. So if the advertiser’s intent was to get people to buy a yonanas machine in the store, I’d say they missed an opportunity.
Still, it’s a smart idea to place your QR code where it’s 100% relevant to your target audience, and there are valuable lessons here. Most obvious, of course, is to ensure that your QR code takes the viewer to a site that’s going to look good and work well on a mobile device. Second, consider how your QR code is being applied, and ensure it’s easily scan-able. Finally, the sticker’s call to action needs work. Instead of “Turn me into yonanas,” which doesn’t mean anything to anyone, I’d have gone with something more benefit oriented: “Turn me into ice cream,” for instance.
So, a good idea; but poorly executed. Hopefully Yonanas will make some adjustments and try again.
Many of the businesses I work with through my agency, Workshop, have fairly small budgets. So a technology like augmented reality can be out of reach for them, because there’s usually some level of app creation involved. That’s why I like this AR experience created for the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. It’s simple.
You’ll recall that an augmented reality app lets you see something on your smart phone, tablet or computer screen that isn’t actually there in real life. In this particular case, the app works as both a bus shelter and a personal desktop accessory. Quite simply, using the app allows you to operate a Star Trek transporter to “beam up” and “beam back” your friends. That’s it.
Uncomplicated and straightforward, yes. But for Star Trek and science fiction fans it’s quick, fun and relevant. And remember, that’s the audience here.
Building an AR app, even with this minimal level of functionality, does cost some money, no question. But if you can create something simple for a specific target audience, it can be a good way to get people to spend some extra time with your brand.