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Google is working with QVC on a REVOLUTIONARY advanced type of bar code that can be scanned with a mobile phone. Revolutionary in the sense of "Everything old is new again." These "QR codes" do face some obstacles, the most significant being the fact that less than 5% of people currently own phones compatible with the technology. A previous attempt at a similar product called CueCat was a big failure [Ad Age]. But Google, the company that's determined to scan all the world's books, is not giving up in its retro attachment to print-based technologies, even in the bar code sphere. Besides, these scannable QR codes have already proven their worth in trial campaigns by making the Case Western University campus "look like downtown Tokyo" and benefiting "the end user," say jargon-spouting engineers!

Enter Case Western University's Institute for Management and Engineering, which began using its own 2D codes, called EZcodes, around Case Western's Cleveland campus in February. The codes are found everywhere from transit stops, where students can scan them to see when the next bus would arrive, to applications on Facebook and MySpace, to the student newspaper where QVC recently began rolling out its own marketing campaign with Mobile Discovery. As QVC's CMO Jeff Charney said, "We wanted to make the Case campus look like downtown Tokyo."


Google has already seen results from a recent test campaign conducted in three markets with jewelry retailer Blue Nile. Each ad contained a QR code and a response tag, and was tested against the same ads without the tags. The code-enhanced ads ended up driving 6.5 times more revenue than the ads without. Mr. Spinnell added that the majority of the web traffic to the ads' micro-site was also enhanced by search, which is the ultimate proxy at Google in determining how traditional media is performing. "Aside from the fact that it was a great way to bridge the gap and make these newspaper ads clickable, aggregating these calls-to-action will really benefit the end user."