Mobile and offline media: bridging the gap

In this age of digital marketing, one might believe the days of outdoor and other traditional advertising platforms are numbered. However, the emergence of new media platforms has provided several opportunities to use these traditional media in interesting ways.

The inclusion of digital services within traditional marketing creates a call to action scenario, ultimately transforming a push message into an interactive pull communication.

The three most common forms of mobile calls to action are commonly referred to as text, scan and tap.

Text: Long before there were smartphones, brands have been using SMS as a tool to provide one-on-one communication. Today, SMS remains a commonly used marketing channel because of its simplicity and ubiquity.

Scan: A more recent tool for mobile engagement is the QR code. QR codes aren’t new but the fact that your smartphone’s camera can scan and read data from a QR code has made it a popular choice for out-of-home engagement. Commonly, QR codes will simply open up a URL but they can be programmed in different ways.

Tap: Near-field communication (NFC) is a technology that uses radio fields for contactless communication. Tags can be hidden in stickers or integrated into posters or billboards. Many new smartphones now support NFC, enabling devices to simply tap a tag without having to open any apps.

When integrating text, scan or tap mobile interaction into offline advertising platforms, there are five key considerations to keep in mind.

1. Placement

A good call to action should always be prominently visible. Simply putting a tiny QR code or NFC tag at the bottom of a bus shelter ad is not going to drive much engagement. Try to reserve some dedicated space for your call to action so that it is easily noticed and not lost in the display. Walmart Canada had a great campaign with Mattel where outdoor ad space in busy train stations was used to create a virtual toy store for busy parents, featuring the must-have toys for the 2012 holiday season. With a clear, eye-level call to action, passersby were made aware of how to interact. One of the key selling points, free shipping, was featured prominently.

Walmart virtual toy store

Billboards and other large outdoor ads are typically seen from a distance. When scanning or tapping is not possible, SMS is always an option. Make sure both the keyword and SMS number are clearly visible.

2. Reach and limitations

SMS is supported by all mobile handsets and therefore has the biggest reach. QR codes work on most smartphones, either natively or via a free QR reader app. NFC devices are growing in popularity with most new Android and Windows phones having NFC chips built in. SMS works well for competition entries, text-based alerts or simple vouchers. Interactive, media rich promotions are normally targeted at smartphone users where QR codes are more suitable. NFC offers the most seamless option but tags come at a small cost and are not suitable for all print media. When running a joint QR/NFC promotion in Australia today, expect to see a 75/25 split with NFC growing steadily.

3. Relevance

The type of call to action you want to generate will influence what channel you use and how to market it. If a movie distributor wants to run a campaign with the intention of getting consumers to watch a movie trailer, it would makes sense to use a QR code as viewing the trailer would require a smartphone and the code can take them directly to the website hosting the trailer. If the call to action is to get consumers to enter a competition, SMS campaigns work well with most consumers willing to pay the cost of sending a SMS for the chance to win something. A recent study in the UK showed that 90% of consumers believe that interactivity makes an ad more effective in capturing their attention with three in four likely to interact again. Even so, don’t expect consumers to interact with you if there is no clear benefit. Campaigns that entice, educate, reward or surprise tend to drive the best interaction rates.

4. Device targeting

If you use one of the mobile channels to direct users to a URL, make sure you use a good redirection platform so you can serve up content that looks and works best on the user’s phone. This way, you can show a link to your brand’s new iPhone app exclusively to users on an iOS device – no need to show an Android user what they can’t get. Similarly, you might want to limit mandatory fields to the bare minimum for users on non-touchscreen devices as typing can put people off when using a numerical keypad.

5. Reporting

SMS campaigns, when set up properly, are a great way to build up an opt-in database of mobile numbers, a clear advantage over NFC/QR-based campaigns in some cases. Whether you use SMS, QR codes or NFC, make sure you use different identifiers for all your campaigns and if possible even for every individual ad you run. That way you can measure the performance of every single ad, any time of day. Whether your goal is to drive site traffic, Facebook likes, newsletter subscribers or sales, mobile technology can make traditional media fully accountable on a micro level.


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Melle Staelenberg
BY Melle Staelenberg ON 27 March 2013
Melle Staelenberg is service delivery manager at Salmat Digital.