May 14, 2012, 5:07 PM

More advertisers want readers to take action—now

Use of QR and similar codes is growing in magazine ads, a study finds.

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Quick Response, or QR, codes and other 2-D bar codes; digital watermarks, which like QR codes can be read by smartphone cameras; and Near Field Communication, or NFC, wireless chips, all are designed to get smartphone owners to take immediate action—to scan the code with their smartphone and be linked via the mobile web to a video, an app download page, additional product information, or even an m-commerce site page to make a purchase. Use of these codes by magazine advertisers is on the rise, a possible indication that consumers are taking a liking to this form of advertising.

In the first quarter of 2012, at least one of these types of codes, sometimes called “action codes,” appeared in 99 of the top 100 U.S. magazines ranked by circulation; this is up from 78 in Q1 2011, according to a new study by mobile marketing firm and 2-D bar code specialist Nellymoser. The overall number of magazine ad pages containing an action code was up 288% quarter over quarter—from 352 in Q1 2011 to 1,365 in Q1 2012.

The percentage of magazine advertising pages containing a mobile action code exceeded 8% each month of the first quarter of 2012, the study says. This is up significantly from March 2011 when just 3.55% of ad pages contained an action code.

And more than 450 brands ran at least one advertisement during Q1 2012 that included a code, up from 137 in Q1 2011, the study finds.

“The fact that virtually every top 100 U.S. publication featured advertisements with mobile action codes in Q1 is evidence that they are an essential marketing tool for engaging readers and building brand loyalty,” says Roger Matus, executive vice president at Nellymoser. “Given the trajectory of growth we’ve seen to date, we anticipate an even faster rate of mobile action code adoption throughout 2012.”

Marketers overwhelmingly favored QR codes over other types of action codes with more than 80% of all printed action codes being QR codes in Q1 2012, the study finds. 14% were Microsoft Tags, another form of 2-D bar code, and 6% were other formats.

Videos were the most popular way to engage users with 35% of mobile campaigns leading to a video such as a product demo, entertaining clip or behind-the-scenes look, Nellymoser says. Mobile commerce web site pages, social media sharing features and sweepstakes entry forms each accounted for 20% of landing pages. 5% of codes led to other forms of content.

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