For over a decade, QR codes have been that small square of random black and white digitized designs you see on everything from signs to product packaging. But with the popularization of smartphone technology in combination with societal changes such as a global pandemic, we are seeing QR codes resurge in popularity and utility amongst consumers. In this article, we will dive into what QR codes are, why we are seeing a recent surge in consumer use, and the future of QR codes in direct-response marketing.
Let’s dive in!
History of the QR Code
The history of QR codes dates back to 1994 when Denso Wave, a member of the Toyota Group, was needing to develop an alternative to the traditional UPC barcodes to streamline the manufacturing process. Though barcodes were useful, their traditional 12 digit UPC numbers limited the number of iterations possible to make across items. Needing an alternative that could carry more information, the QR code was created, storing up to 7000 characters. The new design allowed the ability to transpose information both vertically and horizontally while using the same amount of area as a barcode. So the question still stands, if they were invented in 1994, why are we just now seeing a rise in everyday QR code use?
Long story short, while QR codes have always had great utility for businesses, they did not hold the same utility for consumers until recently. To use the QR codes, you had to first and foremost have the technology to read them. Though QR codes started to pop up on products and signage over the past few decades, the average consumer did not have that technology readily on hand. Additionally, consumers were not knowledgeable about what this funny-looking digital square meant or did. That is, until recently.
Increased Use of QR Codes by Consumers
There have been many factors that have contributed to the recent rise of QR code use by the everyday person. Firstly, the spread and affordability of smartphones aided in the ability for average consumers to use QR code services. Many smartphone developers now have QR code reading preinstalled on the cameras. Not only is this feature conveniently accessible on your phone, a piece of technology many of us constantly have by our side, it also is pre-installed without a customer needing to take any additional action to use.
The second factor that has impacted its popularity centers around the growth of understanding by the general public. Many innovative services now regularly use QR codes. As these services educated their consumers, QR code know-how became more commonplace. When services like Bird scooters and Citi bikes hit the streets, it taught users to scan and go. Over time, more and more consumer products and services have adopted QR codes within their user experience.
One of the biggest areas adopting QR codes has been the restaurant industry. Due to the pandemic, restaurants across the country replaced their physical menus with QR codes. This adoption not only has health and safety benefits but also allows businesses more flexibility. In a CNBC article by Amelia Lucas discussing this move by restaurants, Bitly President Raleigh Harbour said that in addition to not needing to clean menus after every table, restaurants are “able to adjust their menu offerings on the fly to account for elements like inflation, fluctuations in food and commodities prices, and other variables.” This is a great example of how QR codes have provided a win-win for customers and businesses. So how can marketers use this technology?
Future of QR Code Technology
In addition to QR codes having utility on e-scooters and restaurant tabletops, media companies and marketers are discovering areas where QR codes can be optimized across their programming and advertisements. Like how tech startups familiarized consumers with scanning QR codes to get a bike or scooter, TV stations are beginning to implement QR codes onto their programming. For example, many TV news stations are now implementing QR codes during their segments to drive users from their TV screens to their websites, apps, and more through their mobile devices.
In his Marketing Dive article, Robert Williams discusses the new movement of leveraging “second screening”, the use of a device such as a smartphone while simultaneously consuming media on another screen such as TV. He notes how “marketers have an opportunity to entice viewers to scan a QR code that appears in a commercial break.” Additionally, this action can be used on longer-form media and has the potential to achieve the similar trackability benefits of 800 numbers, but in a manner that is accessible to younger, more tech-savvy audiences. With consumers familiar with this technology, this resurgence has many companies looking at the various possibilities to leverage this tech to bridge the gaps between media channels. In this omnichannel world, this is a very enticing tool for marketers aiming to communicate and lead consumers through the buying process across platforms.
While QR code implementation on television content is still in its early stages, those who adopt this shift and engage with their audiences through this new manner have the opportunity to capture viewers and bring them further down the marketing funnel in a way that is useful, interactive, and trackable. As previously said, QR code technology has the potential to be the bridge between the past and president of direct-response TV, from old-school 800 numbers into the digitally-driven, omnichannel world.
Curious to learn more about how you can implement QR codes in your marketing strategy? River Direct can provide QR code applications to your ads, bringing your TV marketing to the present day. Contact us to learn more!
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It seems like every month, groundbreaking and industry-altering shifts are occurring in the media and advertising world. In last month’s blog, The Future and Fate of Nielsen Ratings, we discussed the changes affecting the industry leading to a need for a more diverse, accurate, and omnichannel measurement system. In that article, we dove into the challenges Nielsen faces and the efforts media giants like NBCUniversal are taking to develop new measurement alternatives to better understand and interpret their audiences. Still, NBCUniversal will not be the only one attempting to create a new measurement system. ViacomCBS has recently announced their deal with the advertising data company, VideoAmp, that aims to change how media measurement is done. In this article, we will dive deeper into what these major players are aiming to do as they pave the way for the future of media measurement.
Status of Nielsen
As a brief recap, Nielsen has long been struggling to adapt their traditional rating system to evolve with the changes in media amongst the rise of digital, streaming, and more. Subsequently, their image to advertisers has been under major scrutiny as agencies and media buyers reexamine the reliability of Nielsen’s data that guides major business decisions. This issue has recently worsened as Nielsen lost its accreditation for local and national TV measurement by the Media Rating Council (MRC) after “the measurement firm undercounted national TV household viewership during the pandemic, sparking pushback from TV networks,” according to an article written by Alison Weissbrot for PRWeek. This move has only energized other companies to search for new alternatives.
With longstanding pushback, media companies are realizing they cannot wait for Nielsen to evolve with the market. This has led to the most recent development by ViacomCBS and their partnership with VideoAmp, an advertising data and software company. According to Wayne Friedman’s MediaPost article, “ViacomCBS, VideoAmp Cut Deal For ‘Alternative Currency’ Measurement,” this partnership aims to create a new “alternative currency” used for measurement. A key differentiator in VidoeAmp’s technology, compared to Nielsen, is its “proprietary data/methodology coming from set-top-box and smart TV Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) data for traditional TV, streaming video and digital media.”
In a multi-channel media landscape, advertisers and media companies are searching for solutions to understand how their content connects through various mediums and consumer touchpoints. While this is still early in emergence, John Halley, COO of Advertising Revenue at ViacomCBS, says that they are predicting many partnerships with marketers across the automotive, insurance, and fast food industries as well as other advertisers who are needing a more evolved audience measurement system.
Still, the idea of a one-size-fits-all measurement system is likely not in the cards. Halley notes that they are “not saying VideoAmp is replacing Nielsen as [their] primary currency,” but rather, “reimagining of the measurement ecosystem, the capabilities that could be brought to bear.” With this new partnership, ViacomCBS will use data across Nielsen, VideoAmp, and Comscore to interpret and understand their audience and it is likely many will follow suit.
This latest move by ViacomCBS is one of a trend that will likely continue as other major players search for alternative solutions that can measure and grow with consumer behavior. Michael Bürgi, Senior Editor of Media Buying and Planning at Digiday, notes in his article that alternatives must align with this multi-measurement future. He includes commentary by Nancy Larkin, Horizon Media’s Executive Vice President, that highlights the undeniable fact that “too much time is spent by buyers and agencies having to analyze the data.” Furthermore, in addition to measuring data, there must be a standardized and agreed-upon value that these metrics hold.
While it is still too early to ditch Nielsen and jump to a new alternative, ViacomCBS putting its name in the hat is a big step toward the future. At River Direct, we are sure to look at the media landscape and track the moves of today, tomorrow, and beyond to provide multichannel strategies for long-term success. Learn more about River Direct and be sure to follow us across our socials (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram) as well as subscribe to our newsletter below for the latest updates in the marketing and advertising space.
Nielsen ratings have been the gold standard for understanding consumer media behavior for decades. But since then, we have seen the rise of new forms of media like TikTok and streaming that have taken consumers by storm, capturing their attention and dollars. So as new media and technology emerge and affect consumers’ viewing habits, we must ask the question of whether this industry-standard measurement system still holds up? And if not, what will the industry implement as its replacement? In this article, we will dive into the history of Nielsen’s rating system, the changes in media threatening its relevancy, and the future of media ratings.
History of Nielsen Ratings
To understand the dominance Nielsen ratings have had on the US advertising industry, we must look back to its rise in television. As television found its way into US households in the 1950s, Nielsen launched their TV audience measurement system garnering insights into what audiences were paying attention to. Later in 1965, the Nielsen Station Index Service released the “Viewers in Profile” report that became the standard reference for stations selling TV spots to advertisers. From resources like this to the invention of their Storage Instantaneous Audimeter, a device that stored TV set usage data and transmitted it to Nielsen overnight, they became the information hub on consumer media reception. Up until today, Nielsen has used their proprietary data to establish itself as an essential service provider guiding TV networks and advertisers alike.
Changes in Consumer Choices
So how can a Goliath such as Nielsen become outdated? With a business founded on the insights of the consumer, it is key that they are able to track audiences wherever they are. But consumers’ attention is not simply split between radio and television like before. Today, audiences are constantly bombarded with content and ads from their phones and laptops to cable and smart TVs. Additionally, tracking audience insights has become drastically more segmented across television, streaming, digital, and radio.
According to Lara O’Reilly’s Insider article, Why the latest in a long line of Nielsen vs. networks fights could be different this time, she notes that both television executives and ad buyers are unsatisfied with Nielsen’s measurements. Additionally, many are awaiting a trustworthy and accurate cross-platform rating system Nielsen is developing and believes will be ready fall of 2024. With dissatisfied networks and evolving technology, many are looking to alternatives that can track today’s audience insights.
New Rating Options
So where exactly is this new Nielsen replacement? While there has not been a definitive alternative ready to launch, some major media players are putting their hats in the ring. According to Brian Steinberg’s Variety article, With Nielsen Under Scrutiny, NBCU Wants to Build New Measurement System, NBCUniversal is “assembling a full suite of interoperable measurement solutions that are as advanced, diverse, easy-to-use, and multi-platform as the ways people watch content.” Their goal is to “build a new measurement ecosystem for us that reflects the future.” Though this technology is still in its infancy, if effective, it would drastically shake up the advertising industry since many advertisers have established their rates according to Nielsen’s ratings.
Though it appears like we are in the paradigm shift between the past and the future of consumer media ratings, it is our responsibility to stay vigilant on the shifts that alter the media and advertising industries. Whoever can capture and translate cross-platform media insights can become the new king and possibly dethrone Nielsen ratings. Until then, we remain alert and wait.
That is why our teams at River Direct build and strategize with the big picture in mind. From traditional radio and television services to emerging media options on CTV and digital, we provide our clients omnichannel solutions to reach consumers wherever they are. Want to learn more about our agency and services? Be sure to follow us across our socials (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram). Lastly, for more content on the latest shifts, trends, and news in advertising and marketing, subscribe to our newsletter below!
It is safe to say that every business and industry has felt the impact of COVID-19 since the pandemic first struck. Like other in-person events, trade shows have had to pivot, adjust, and rethink how business can be operated. From these efforts, we have seen the rise in digital conventions, virtual webinars, and other online alternatives that have attempted to fulfill the connective value trade shows have on business.
As vaccinations become more widespread and businesses begin to enter a new phase, brands and organizers are looking to see what will become of the future of trade shows. In this blog, we will dive into the important role trade shows serve for businesses and agencies, the changes happening with attendee values, and what to consider when entering the new age of trade shows.
Trade Shows Before the Pandemic
According to Shopify, a trade show is “an event held to bring together members of a particular industry to display, demonstrate, and discuss their latest products and services.” Dating as far back as 3000 BCE, businesses have used trade shows as collective events to facilitate commerce, educate consumers, and act as a hub for commercial and cultural exchange. The history of modern trade shows is one that, despite changing technology through time, has evolved and adapted in tandem with the business world.
Moving away from its origins simply focused on the transactional sale of goods, trade shows have become hubs for networking and connection. While the internet can digitally connect people across the globe, trade shows are one of the unique times when major players in specific markets come together face-to-face to showcase the latest innovations and share their products and offerings to the world. Whether you are a business looking for exposure or a distributor looking for your next client, trade shows bring together like-minded people under one roof for a chance to connect.
Still, everything has a tradeoff. In exchange for attending these magnetic events, they do come at a cost. From the ticket price of an event pass to the costs of travel and time, these are all valuable things to consider now more than ever. In a report by FTI Consulting analyzing sentiments around the post-pandemic trade show industry, 58% of respondents noted that their trade show budget had decreased compared to pre-COVID levels. While this is unsurprising, it is notable that when asked about their predictions for budgets in a post-lockdown world, “46% said there was an intent to increase their budget above pre-pandemic levels.” This is a promising outlook that notes respondent’s belief that there still is great value in in-person trade shows moving forward.
The Future of Trade Shows
Like many uncertainties today, the future of in-person trade shows is still in the air. Nevertheless, as vaccinations reduce the risk at in-person events, businesses are beginning to ease their way back into the trade show circuit.
While businesses are looking to get back into trade shows, attendee priorities have shifted with the changes in the world. According to the report, the top trade show objectives for smaller companies were networking, selling products/services, and showcasing products/services (in that order). Networking and selling products/services both have grown in post-pandemic importance while showcasing products and services has decreased in importance. For larger companies, the top three objectives were building brand awareness, networking, and showcasing products/services. With bigger companies, building brand awareness and networking have increased in importance in contrast to the decrease of importance with showcasing products/services. As a business reevaluates whether attending a trade show is worth the cost, it is important to understand the shift in priorities based on the needs of your business.
Still, commercial businesses are not the only attendees of trade shows. Additionally, these changes also impact agencies and other companies looking to connect and partner with vendors and brands. As the needs of businesses change, so will trade show attendance. Agencies and other third parties must reevaluate if the same trade shows they were attending pre-pandemic offer the same value and clientele that they aim to connect with today. Overall, as companies reenter the trade show world, they must be aware of the cultural shifts that may affect their bottom line.
Here is a quick checklist of questions to ask yourself when considering coming back to the trade show circuit:
- Is this tradeshow still worth the investment for your brand or agency? While certain trade shows may have been beneficial historically, do they still offer the same value given the shifts in attendee sentiment?
- What are the safety guidelines? This goes without saying, but it is more crucial than ever to understand and follow the safety guidelines set by event organizers. Additionally, during a pandemic, a trade show’s safety guidelines alone can be a big asset or determinant for attending.
- How can you take advantage of the moment? Having face-to-face interactions in today’s world has much more meaning and value than it did pre-pandemic. Going into these events, what are ways you can use this time to set your business or agency apart and create those connections and partnerships?
While the future is still uncertain, the new normal is being forged as we speak. Trade shows have reemerged and are ready to serve their purpose: to connect. Still, we must not forget the large cultural and industry changes that will impact the industry. Those who adjust and adapt to the changing environment will be the ones who are able to make the most of the new trade show world.
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After about two months since Apple and Facebook implemented their changes toward a more private digital landscape without cookies, it is safe to say that the digital advertising industry is continuing to feel the effects. According to Mashable reporter, Rachel Kraus, when given the option to have their activity tracked on apps in iOS 14.5, consumers are overwhelmingly opting out. Kraus’s article states that the opt-in rate is roughly 4% in the United States and 12% worldwide. With the loss of so much consumer information, companies and marketers are having to pivot their tactics and search for new ways to connect to consumers.
As we continue to tread through this digital marketing shift, Google’s latest announcement has the industry taking a cautious and momentary breath by announcing a delay in their plans to eliminate third-party cookies on Chrome. In a blog post in late July, Google announced that they will be delaying the blocking of third-party cookies on the browser until 2023. In this blog, we’ll be taking a dive into what Chome’s “Privacy Sandbox” is, how it works, and what this delay means moving forward.
Google’s Privacy Sandbox
What is it?
Google’s Privacy Sandbox is their response to the move toward the cookieless future. It was established in 2019 as a collaborative effort to open source solutions and develop new tech to heighten standards on websites. According to its website, it aims to “create web technologies that both protect people’s privacy online and give companies and developers the tools to build thriving digital businesses to keep the web open and accessible to everyone.”
Three of its biggest goals include:
- Prevent the tracking of users’ browser activity across the web
- Allow publishers the ability to build sites that respect user privacy
- Preserve the open web and maintain people’s access to information safely
What is the delay?
While originally planning on phasing out cookies on Chrome by the end of the year in 2021, Google announced it has moved that goal to the end of the year in 2023. Google says that they are delaying this release to “allow sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions, continued engagement with regulators, and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services.”
The multi-phased public development process included 3 steps (discussion, testing, and approval determination). Once approved for adoption, Chrome will phase out third-party cookies in two stages. In stage 1, estimated to begin in late 2022, publishers and advertisers will begin adopting the technology and implementing it into their services. In stage 2, starting in mid-2023, Chrome will begin phasing out their-party cookie support and completely phase them out by the end of 2023. Google notes that more detailed plans for this process will be coming out on Google’s website: privacysandbox.com.
While this delay buys many in the industry time to adjust and prepare, the cookieless future will still be unpredictable. Until the release of the new Chrome systems, marketers will likely use this time to adjust to the current cookieless initiatives affecting their businesses while also investigating new ways to advertise and connect with their audiences. To see what steps you can take today to begin moving toward a cookieless strategy, read our article, How We Shift in a Post-Cookie World.
Dieter Bohn of The Verge concisely summarizes the catch twenty-two that Google is in when saying:
“The more Google cuts off third-party tracking, the more it harms other advertising companies and potentially increases its own dominance in the ad space. The less Google cuts off tracking, the more likely it is to come under fire for not protecting user privacy. And no matter what it does, it will come under heavy fire from regulators, privacy advocates, advertisers, publishers, and anybody else with any kind of stake in the web.”
It is clear that there will not be a one-size-fits-all solution to this new technological shift. Additionally, businesses and advertisers need to listen to the cultural sentiments amongst audiences in order to abide by their changing needs. At River Direct, we are always listening and searching for the latest tactics to help our clients yield successful campaigns both on digital and across various media channels.
From the push of first-party data collection strategies to the development of new privacy-respecting targeting tools, we will likely see a mix of solutions that will rise to become commonplace strategies in the evolving landscape. Nevertheless, this shift reminds us that it is key to be on our toes and ready to adapt to any pauses, shifts, or implementations the future may throw us in this crazy industry we call marketing.
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As technology evolves and content becomes easier to consume, the industry has seen audience habits shift away from traditional media channels such as TV and radio and toward more on-demand media platforms. One of the most dynamic and evolving of these new mediums is streaming. Streaming has changed how audiences consume longer-form content with the ability to pick and choose what to watch and when to watch it. Though Netflix has dominated the streaming space, they don’t call it “the streaming wars” for nothing. In this month’s blog, we’re diving into the latest move by WarnerMedia and HBO that is shaking up the streaming space, connected TV advertising, and what this means for the future of this evolving advertising channel.
HBO Max with Ads
Over the past few years, we have seen many streaming services emerge to seek a piece of the pie. Whether it be short-lived services like Quibi or established media players like Disney, consumers’ choices have never been more plentiful. Despite the range of streaming services, paying for each individual subscription has viewers needing to calculate what services offer the most value. While there still remain some services like Netflix and Disney+ that have remained ad-free, others platforms like Hulu and Paramount Plus are testing more discounted tiers that are offset by an ad-supported model.
This week, WarnerMedia launched HBO’s newest offering to the streaming space. Though historically known for its ad-free content, HBO has recently introduced a new offering that brings its content at a more affordable price. Properly named “HBO Max with Ads,” this new streaming plan allows consumers the ability to watch HBO’s library at a reduced price of $9.99 per month. In exchange for this reduced price, subscribers will be presented with limited advertising on the platform.
Compared to its other ad-supported competitors, HBO Max with Ads touts the lightest ad load in the market averaging less than 4 minutes per hour. While this is an exciting and new offering for consumers, historically ad-free platforms like HBO venturing into ad-supported streaming is a promising move for advertisers looking to break into the connected TV space and reach audiences initially thought to be unreachable.
Connected TV (CTV) – What is it?
For those unaware, Connected TV (also known as a smart TV) is any device that supports video-content streaming. Common CTVs include Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and gaming consoles such as the PlayStation and Xbox. These devices are able to stream Over the Top (OTT) content, media content that is provided over the internet. Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu are some of the biggest examples of the recent expansion of OTT content.
While traditional advertising channels like TV and radio sell their ad space in segmented ad spots, CTV advertising works similarly to digital advertising where placements are dynamic and vary based on your desired audience and campaign.
CTV is a notable advertising platform as it has hybrid benefits similar to both TV and digital. Like digital advertising, CTV is able to reach more targeted audiences. Additionally, like TV advertising, CTV ads capture audiences in more engaging spaces as viewers are consuming longer-form media as opposed to shorter digital content. In short, using CTV in one’s media mix allows brands a better opportunity to position themselves in front of more targeted and engaged audiences.
In addition to those CTV factors, other benefits include:
- Budget-friendly flexibility
- Wider variety of ad formats
- Premium inventory and publishers
- Faster real-time metrics
According to Todd Spangler’s Variety article, WarnerMedia said that subscribers to HBO’s new tier “can expect to see greater personalization in the ads they do see,” and that the “Ads on HBO Max are designed to complement and enhance the overall viewing experience and will be thoughtfully surfaced across HBO Max’s content catalog in a way that maintains the integrity of the programming.”
From a big-picture standpoint, not only does this move make HBO the newest space for businesses to advertise on, but it is also a key indicator in a shift in the streaming landscape. This is extremely notable as Apple’s privacy changes have made ad targeting across the digital landscape harder to accomplish. As we see how consumers react to this new service offering, now more than ever is an exciting time for advertisers to explore the benefits of CTV as an addition to their media mix.
If you are curious about how your business can benefit from adding CTV to your media mix, contact the River Direct team today to learn more! For additional insights on the latest moves and events shaking the advertising industry, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.