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Updated
April 19, 2024
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 minutes

Breaking the Fourth Wall: The QR Code Evolution in TV Advertising

Business Growth
Breaking the Fourth Wall: The QR Code Evolution in TV Advertising
Flowcode Team


Producing and airing commercials for events like the Super Bowl is a massive undertaking for brands. From securing a spot to filming captivating creative, the stakes couldn't be higher. On top of that, in recent years, debate has swirled around whether advertising in the Big Game is even a worthwhile investment... 

Sure, it’s the only event that routinely draws 100 million viewers (in fact the NFL, a Flowcode partner, had 93 of the top 100 broadcasts of 2023) but 30 seconds of airtime runs you $7 Million.

Such a costly investment can easily be justified with the addition of strategic QR. Many brands are turning to QR solutions because of their ability to shed light on the engagement their ads are getting. What was once a black box for brands is now an opportunity to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of your campaigns.

QR codes on TV

Since the first television commercial way back in 1941, creating a standout experience via the digital box has been a primary objective for many brands. And while television remains a potent force in the advertising industry, it faces some core challenges. For one, it can often be a one-way street (i.e. little interaction). Additionally, tracking viewership metrics is often a convoluted task. 

That’s why TV QR codes emerge as a highly elegant solution. They transform the passive ad consumption–which, let’s admit, we’re all tired of — into both an interactive experience and a quantifiable investment. 

Now, that all sounds nice in theory, but you’re probably wondering why you keep hearing about this technology. So we’re here to break it down for you below.

Jumbotron QR code

How do brands uses QR codes on TV?

QR codes on TV have carved out their reputation in the advertising industry. However, they also provide tremendous value to networks and production companies as well. QR codes do more than just measure engagement; they are essential in tracking conversions – the cornerstone of advertising success. They quickly bridge traditional TV advertising with the digital universe, offering a detailed view of consumer behavior. By integrating QR codes into TV ads, businesses not only create an interactive experience but also gain a cost-effective tool for analyzing the return on investment. This integration is critical for modern marketing strategies, ensuring that every dollar spent on TV advertising is an investment towards measurable and impactful results. So, it's clear that QR codes are not just an addition to TV ads; they are a strategic necessity for brands aiming to thrive in the digital age.

Below are the main use cases of QR codes on TV. Remember, the sky’s the limit here. The more inventive you are with these approaches, the better outcomes you can expect.  

Product information pages: This is the most common use for QR codes on TV. Basically, this describes directing viewers to a website where they can learn more about a product and potentially make a purchase.

App downloads: Advertisers looking to promote an app should look no farther than QR codes. Why? The QR code can lead directly to the app's page in an app store, enabling instant and frictionless downloads.

Interactive content: QR codes can be used to direct viewers to interactive content, such as games, quizzes, or surveys, to increase engagement.

Additional or exclusive content: For TV shows or movies, QR codes can be a vehicle for providing access to content like behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with actors, or further information about the topic of a documentary.

Voting or polls: Remember the early days of American Idol when you’d call in to vote for your favorite contestant? Well, QR codes can essentially do that but better. During live events or reality shows, QR codes can be used to facilitate voting or polling from the audience.

Accessing recipes or instructions: In cooking shows or DIY programs, QR codes can be used to provide detailed recipes or instructions that viewers can then save or print.

Check-in or registration: QR codes can be used for viewers to check-in, register, or sign up for an event, a website, or a loyalty program being promoted on TV.

Digital tickets or coupons: Advertisers or broadcasters can provide special offers, discount codes, or digital tickets through QR codes displayed on the screen.

Fundraising or donations: During telethons or charity events, QR codes can make the donation process much quicker and easier for everyoneHaving users scan to donate turns an arduous process into a frictionless one.

Social media: A broadcaster or advertiser can use QR codes to lead viewers to their social media channels. Thus, encouraging them to follow or engage with their content and  simplifying the overall experience by eliminating the need for users to manually type in a username.

Augmented reality (AR):
When sufficient tools are available, QR codes can be used to launch AR experiences–think, trying on clothes or makeup virtually, or visualizing how furniture might look in your home.


QR codes and the Super Bowl

Dozens of brands have started to add QR codes to their large campaign initiatives, primarily because they are such a powerful driver of instantly connecting fans to a brand. Over the past couple of years, there are some examples that have stood out. Let's do a quick analysis on recent ads:

Coinbase's Elusive Bouncing QR Code (2022)

Coinbase excited viewers with a reminiscent bouncing colorful QR code on a black screen. This commercial was a creative play on old DVD loading pages and offered customers $15 worth of free Bitcoin. Aside from the bouncing block, there wasn't much else to the $14 million 60-second ad. Despite this, the intrigue generated over 20 million scans to their homepage, eventually crashing the website.

Why we loved it:

Creativity: While the concept was simple, generating mystery and hype with novelty is a great way to drive engagement and clearly worked. However, now that the novelty of this has worn off, we're not as convinced it would work today.

Why we didn't:

Security: Unbranded and mysterious QR codes can be intriguing, but can also open up various security concerns for viewers scanning those ads. Following the commercial, many experts criticized Coinbase for setting up what could have been a messy situation. As phishing and malware attacks in the QR space become more popular, it will be incumbent on companies running QR enabled ads to ensure safety and privacy for their customers by working with compliant providers.

Efficacy: Ultimately, the Coinbase website wasn't able to handle the traffic driven by the ad. There's nothing worse than a broken user experience, which is why rigorous testing and quality assurance is key to a successful campaign.

In contrast, last year we helped Welch’s Fruit Snacks drive close to 60k conversions and collect 32k CRM contacts.

Welch's Fruit Snacks Sweepstakes with Mark Andrews (2023)

For their Big Game promotion, Welch's Fruit Snacks partnered with Flowcode to power their sweepstakes giveaway. The TV ad highlighted football superstar Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens encouraging viewers to scan the code for a limited time chance to win their sweepstakes contest.

Why we loved it:

This ad was particularly well executed as it followed some of the most important best practices for QR codes on TV.

Placement: The code was large and visible throughout the ad – easy for users to scan from any distance from their screen and improving the user experience of successfully scanning the code.

Call to Action: This ad highlighted a clear incentive for viewers to scan: one limited time sweepstakes for a specific product. Mark Andrews directly prompts viewers to scan the code with their phones as well as guides a CTA around the code, making this execution foolproof and flawless.

This year’s game is likely to feature even more QR codes as brands embrace the technology and look for ways to directly connect with their consumers.

11 key reasons companies use QR codes on TV?

In the intro here, we touched on how QR codes can be tremendously useful tools for TV advertising. As you learned in the prior section, this doesn’t necessarily mean that only brand advertisers are able to access these benefits. Rather, networks and production companies can elevate their own marketing performance through this format. 

Now, why would they both want to do that?  

1. Easy user experience: It’s super easy for viewers to scan a QR code with their smartphone's camera and directly be transported to a website, online store, or landing page. It's a simple and convenient way to encourage engagement. 

2. Direct navigation: Since QR codes eliminate the steps in remembering, searching, and/or entering a URL for a website, more viewers are likely to visit.

3. Accurate measurability: By embedding a QR code in a TV ad, advertisers can more accurately track the ad's performance. Every time the code is scanned, it registers as a unique interaction, providing valuable metrics on viewer engagement. Using Flowcode’s analytics, Flowlytics, users are able to get real-time updates regarding their codes scan engagement data as well as customer data.

4. Wide range of format options: QR codes can be used to take viewers to a variety of content formats. Whether it’s websites, landing pages, videos, or multimedia content, a simple scan of a QR code allows users to access and engage with content directly. 

6. Personalization: With QR codes, content can be tailored to audience members based on the time, place, or even specific viewer (depending on available data). That means more relevance to your brand directly translates to more user engagement. 

7. Immediacy of action: Since a QR code requires a scan, it encourages viewers to take immediate action. Pro tip: This especially rings true for limited-time offers.

8. Bridge between the digital and physical: QR codes serve as a bridge between physical (TV) and digital (smartphone or tablet) spaces, integrating different media in a single user experience. By simply scanning a QR code, people can swiftly transition from the offline to the online world. 

9. Direct engagement: QR codes can directly engage the audience by prompting them to interact with the content in a way that they might not have otherwise. By scanning the QR code, users are instantly encouraged to participate in interactive campaigns, contests, surveys, and more. 

10. Less space: A QR code is a tiny little square on the TV that can open up an extensive amount of information. This compact code acts as a gateway to open up an extensive range of content.

11. Cost-effective: In general, QR codes are inexpensive to create and apply, making them a cost-effective tool. The benefits your business will see, for example brand awareness and the collection of useful customer data, greatly outweigh the small price tag that comes with purchasing a Flowcode plan.

Unlocking TV's interactive potential

QR codes are an invaluable tool for spurring engagement on TV. By incorporating a QR code on TV, advertisers and networks or production companies can enhance audience interaction, track ad performance, and bridge the gap between the offline and online world. Leveraging Flowcode's advanced QR code solutions for TV advertising provides a highly effective, user-friendly, and data-driven advertising model benefiting consumers and businesses alike.

Flowcode comes into play as an industry-leading provider of QR code solutions, designed with TV engagement in mind. Unlike generic QR codes, Flowcode's offering is fast, highly scannable, and customizable. With its state-of-the-art design, Flowcode's TV QR codes can be scanned from any distance, angle, or speed, mitigating the common issue of difficulty scanning due to screen distance and motion.

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