BP uses AR via QR

Recently, British Petroleum (BP) launched this two-page print advertisement to promote its support of the  U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams in next year’s Olympics, and featured in the ad is a QR Code. There are several things in this advertisement worth discussing, so let’s start with the QR Code. (Note: the left- and right-hand page of the advertisement is the top and bottom image below, respectively.)   

At first glance, the QR Code looks like any other generic (black and white) QR Code but, upon closer inspection (see image below), you’ll notice that in the lower right-hand corner of the code symbol is the  company name Augme Technologies and a company logo. What’s going on here? As other code providers have done before, it appears as though Augme is attempting to brand the QR Code itself, much like Intel used the “Intel Inside” tagline to brand the internal workings of a PC. Here, Augme wants to show consumers that they are behind the internal workings of the code, and the question could be asked, does this really matter to consumers? Will this form of branding increase the amount of scans and interaction with the code? Right now, it might mean very little, as the majority of consumers have yet to learn about and scan a 2D barcode but, in time, this may prove to be a worthwhile strategy. Question to Augme, will this form of branding be standard in all client campaigns? Does the company plan to support this form of branding through advertising much like Intel did?

Now, let’s look at the code’s purpose in the advertisement and what is delivered via the scan. In reading the copy that appears above the code (Scan the code with your mobile device to get the app or search bpathletes at the app store), it is not very clear as to what the app is for or about. Is it a QR Code reader app? Is it an app to help with the augmented reality (AR) experience that is being offered via the advertisement? Is it an app having to do with the 2012 Olympics? What exactly is it? Here the copy could have been much clearer because, in actuality, when the QR Code is scanned, the reader of the advertisement is brought to an app store page where they can download the app that will enable the AR experience to be viewed. Or, at least, that’s the intention.

After I downloaded the app on my Android phone, I launched the app and followed the on-screen instructions to view the AR experience, but the experience never materialized. It seems as though my phone could not support the media to be shown and all I saw was an error message. No AR experience for me, bummer. How many other people experienced what I did? How does this non-experience play out for BP, as well as Augme Technologies? At times like this, I wonder if companies should provide a footnote to a QR Code and disclose which phones will or won’t work with the campaign, so as to save consumers the time and effort of scanning a code, downloading apps, etc. 

If the QR Code experience was not an option, the advertisement also informs consumers that the AR experience can be realized via a PC webcam but, in order to do so, no less than seven steps need to be followed (see list below).

Steps to View Augmented Reality Experience:
To bring the athletes into your world, you’ll need the following:
1. A webcam.
2. The latest version of Adobe Flash.
3. Player installed on your computer.
4. Printed copies of the athlete cards.

Now you’re ready to hear from the athletes. Be sure to:
5. Turn off pop-up blockers.
6. Make sure the room is well lit.
7. Separate the cards before holding each one up to your webcam.

If people thought scanning a 2D barcode took some time and effort, how about this? While not all AR experiences are this involved, the question remains, what’s on the other side of the AR scan and is it worth it? Does this question sound familiar? It should, because this is the same question that should be asked when building a 2D-based campaign. (In full disclosure, I did not launch the PC version of the AR experience.) 

While it seems as though a lot of thought and effort has gone into this campaign, my question to BP is, what’s the company’s goal or objective? Is the company merely trying to build good will? Is the company trying to increase retail gasoline sales? What value or benefit is the company trying to provide or offer to the reader of the advertisement? In my mind, the last question is the most important, in the sense that the company is asking a consumer to invest time and effort to interact with this advertisement but for what, to see some videos of Olympic and Paralympic athletes? Not that there is anything wrong with supporting these athletes, but it seems to me that this could have been done in a much simpler and less costly way. 

As a strategic marketer, I am very much in favor of using technology such as 2D or AR to further the level of engagement and interaction between a prospect/customer and a brand/product/service, but only when the technology makes sense and actually works. As with 2D campaigns, rigorous testing needs to be done to ensure that the 2D code works well on all devices and with all code reader apps, so I wonder, how much testing was done with the AR component, the real focal point, of this campaign? I also wonder how Augme went about selling BP on the technological applications that were used in this campaign.

2D Barcode Litmus Test: FAIL


2 thoughts on “BP uses AR via QR

  1. Roger, I got this to work on my iPhone via the app.

    When you scan an individual “player card” with the BP app, a one minute video featuring the athlete plays. Very inspirational stuff with each athlete showing how they compete despite their “disability” (recommended: watching an archer perform with no arms, amazing).

    Nice stuff, but not augmented reality–just links to videos. So another question for your list: why didn't they just include a separate barcode next to each athlete and have readers scan that?

    Thank you,

  2. Probably because Apps are thought to be cooler and a buzzword that BP recognized. Plus you need a developer to build apps whereas an intern at BP could of built the campaign. Over complicate a simple solution.

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