FOX TV uses QR Codes

Last month, FOX Broadcasting Company announced that they will be using QR codes, known as FOX Codes, to deliver promotional and added show content for FOX fall programming. The FOX codes will appear in outdoor signage, print, on-air and online and, when scanned, they will resolve to mobile websites, which provide insider content, videos, first-look photos, show secrets, cast interviews and more. The FOX Codes will be focused on three shows, Lone Star, Fringe and Glee.

FOX QR Codes

During the past several nights, I have started to see these codes appear on-air in between programs but, for the milliseconds that the code appears, does FOX really believe viewers are going to be able to scan the code. There’s just simply not enough time or forewarning to do so. Does FOX’s marketing team just assume that everyone has a DVR, Tivo, etc., where viewers will replay the program, pause the screen and scan the code? If this assumption was not enough, it seems as though FOX also makes the assumption that viewers will instinctively know how to scan the code and where to get and download a reader app.

From an online perspective, the 2D campaign is just as bad, or worse. I visited the company’s website and there is absolutely no mention of FOX Codes on the corporate home page. I also went to each shows’ home page and only for Lone Star did I see a QR code being displayed (below the fold in the lower right corner of the page); the home pages for Glee and Fringe did not have a code anywhere in sight. So how does all of this really deliver an enhanced customer experience, if at all? In my opinion, it doesn’t.

It seems as though FOX put more effort into the corporate press release that was distributed last month announcing the QR codes, but a press release is not the way to educate and inform viewers about 2D. While it makes perfect sense for FOX to make use of cross-channel promotion to build awareness of the FOX Code campaign, it seems as though the ball has been dropped in too many places for this to be considered any kind of model for success. And that’s also without my seeing any related print ads, because who knows what those look like.

As an aside to all of this, several months ago, I saw an article talking about the CBS Early Show making use of 2D codes as well, but I have yet to see them deployed in any shape or fashion. Why? Not sure.

While there may be a place for 2D codes on television, it all boils down to execution and making certain that it is done correctly. Also, assumptions should not be made at any juncture. And, if the objective is to integrate the campaign through various channels then all of the pieces of the puzzle need to be in place within those channels. Just think best practice.


5 thoughts on “FOX TV uses QR Codes

  1. There's a lot at play here and I do think the Fox/Mobile execs are a pretty smart group, so, I'd cut them some slack and make the following presumptions:

    * The on-air “flash” of a QR Tag is intended as a teaser/awareness/seek-more kind of gesture, not intended to be scanned. Just getting QR into the mass consciousness could be the thinking (i.e. what is that? Sometimes it's better to make people think, rather than spoon feeding them all answers).

    * We're still pre-Labor Day and we won't see this campaign mature and expand until after eyeballs headed in that direction (after Labor Day, schools back in session, etc.) It's likely a campaign that will evolve between now and December.

    So, their press release was a case of premature-PR. Their initial efforts are less than half-baked, but, maybe there's some buried wisdom?

    Whether or not they deliver a content-experience that matters is a whole other issue? Are they going to deliver experiences that are really intended for mobile engagement? Or, are they going to “shrink the web” and deliver content better suited to land-web experiences?

    Considering the creative talent that abounds in their drama/comedy/children's television departments, they could do something truly clever…if they do, they could drive QR into the mainstream like no other promotion, where 1-million scans becomes the new benchmark?

    With all the talk of “transmedia” FOX TV/mobile are in a unique position to create fascinating experiences with 2D/QR Tags sitting right in the middle of it all.

    Not sure why I'm not as cynical as usual on this?

  2. Anonymous: I read your comments over several times, and I agree with you to a point. Of course, we all don't know what may be up FOX's sleeve on this campaign, and I realize it has a ways to go to grow and build momentum, but at what point does a campaign stop being a teaser and start being less than a great customer experience, or simply annoying. To what degree, or through how many hoops, does FOX want viewers to search for the answers regarding the codes? I guess it's all a matter of perspective, but you can't tell me that the company has executed well when only one of the three programs has a code displayed on their website. Even the press release had all three.

    To your point about FOX possibly driving QR into the mainstream that would be quite a feat, and I don't doubt their creative talents and marketing savvy to do so. It's just unfortunate that we can't hear from FOX to learn the thought process. (Note to self, contact FOX to inquire.)

  3. Hi Roger,

    Your blog posts about best and worst two dimensional (2D) code implementation news and analysis are always helpful and interesting.

    While the FOX TV network WILL help drive scan codes into the mainstream in the U.S., unfortunately, FOX, uses some worst practices in the space.

    I included FOX in my 8/2/10 article as an example of Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Integrating Two Dimensional (2D) Codes (QR – EZcode – Tag) In Your U.S. Marketing Plans:

    To the FOX TV network credit, their Smartphone optimize menu pointing to the video, photos and other new show content is refreshing compared to many major brands that point to a non-optimized Smartphone menu that lacks video or other value-added content.

    I agree with you and as “anonymous” writes that the FOX “press release was a case of premature-PR. Their initial efforts are less than half-baked…”

    Hopefully, FOX gets some best practices help on their FOX CODES (QR) so that FOX doesn't conclude that “it doesn't work” – just that their implementation needs major help!

    Isn't it surprising how major brand after major brand fails on the tactical best practices scan code implementation?


    Dan Smigrod
    CEO & Chief Creative Officer
    Atlanta, GA

  4. Dan: Thank you as always. Yes, it is surprising that one brand after another can't seem to execute well. I agree FOX does a good job linking the codes to worthwhile, value-oriented and properly optimized content.

  5. Anonymous makes good points and I hope it makes people aware of the codes BUT (bold that BUT) the consumer is a lot smarter than “awareness for awareness” sake in our current world. Attention spans are shorter which makes advertising tease times are shorter. I am not even sure people want teasers anymore anyway. We live in a world of instant gratification and can get any content we want immediately. Besides, the average consumer will then relate QR/2D codes with poor experiences and lose interest. Instead of FOX creating a phenomenon with QR codes, they could kill it before it got traction.
    In my opinion, there is no excuse for poor experiences. Why would anyone come back?

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