Will Coinbase’s Super Bowl ad really change the landscape of TV QR codes?

Can TV QR code ads become a successful direct marketing tool?

Earlier this month, Coinbase broke the internet with a $14m 60-second Super Bowl ad spot showing nothing more than a QR code bouncing around the screen. It has been so successful there’s a spat between the crypto brand’s agencies and the brand over whose idea it was. So does this mark a landmark moment for advertisers looking to use the same tricks?

According to research from the ad exchange firm Sharethrough, 79% of TV viewers take out their phones during ad breaks, meaning consumers are already set up to engage with shoppable ads. This, coupled with 76% of viewers admitting to not actively watching ads, leads Sharethrough to believe that CTV QR codes can help advertisers retain audience attention during the commercial break.

Off the back of its research, Sharethrough introduced ’CTV dynamic QR codes’ into its platform. The technology allows advertisers to integrate QR codes into their CTV campaigns and customize the code, including changing the background color, logo and call to action.

Sharethrough’s chief product officer, Curt Larson, says the survey – which pooled 1,000 people – proves viewers’ receptiveness to QR codes. “Tapping into the use of that second screen can provide advertisers with the opportunity to keep viewers’ attention and resonate with them, resulting in greater ROI and more successful advertisements.”

For advertisers such as UK retail giant Boots, the reception to Coinbase’s ad has the potential to majorly boost viewers’ interaction with future QR codes.

Boots experimented with shoppable QR codes for its Christmas 2021 campaign. At the time, its chief marketing officer Peter Markey told The Drum that marketing needs an “immediacy” and said he had faith in the British public to start using the technology.

Post campaign, Markey says the QR code tech “delivered a seamless shopping experience”. Boots saw a 52% uplift in QR scans to the ‘shop the ad’ page versus its tested benchmark. “People loved it,” Markey adds.

“I believe QR codes can help create a richer customer experience,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be just about the purchase, it can deliver education and storytelling around the products and services we offer.”

Markey adds that he’ll be looking to integrate the technology into future campaigns, but next time enhancing the “creative look and feel” of the QR’s presence within an ad.

Todd Cohen is vice-president of national video at tech agency Undertone. He says: “When an advertiser now uses a QR code on TV, it’s no longer going to be the first time people see it – but they will still be new and fresh, stoking people’s curiosity.“

According to Cohen, the biggest advantage to using QR codes right now isn’t conversion. “The biggest thing you get is that it looks different in a sea of ads that look the same,” he says. Coinbase got 20m hits on its QR code page because it broke through the clutter of standard Super Bowl ads.

“A lot of advertisers are using QR codes to immediately look different to other ads on TV,” he adds.

They can also communicate that a brand is tech-savvy and current, adds Cohen. “By using a QR code as the way to interact, Coinbase is saying, ‘hey, we understand what trends are going on right now’ and it fits the brand ethos of being a challenger. They can also help legacy brands avoid looking ’out of touch’ and show consumers they are on the pulse.“

Cohen’s top tips for advertisers are to use large codes so they are easily visible and to make the landing page “tempting”. He says codes should be tied to an incentive rather than a ‘learn more’ page. By putting a QR code in a TV ad, it indicates that there is a valuable reason to visit that page, he says, adding that brands run the risk of damaging the reputation of QR codes if audiences keep visiting pages that don’t satisfy them.