How QR Codes Are Bridging the Gap Between the Smartphones and Television


Can the smartphone be the missing link in solving TV’s attention and attribution problems? Jean-Martin Provencher, Senior Product Manager of Sharethrough, scans how QR codes could be a gamechanger in bridging the TV-smartphone gap.

The growth of connected TV has poised it to become a leading advertising channel and improve upon shortcomings of linear TV, particularly the attention problem and the attribution problem. The smartphone could be an important bridge to improve upon both those problems. 

TV’s Attention Problem

The constant challenge for all advertisers on every medium is how to grab the attention of an audience that is increasingly better at not paying attention to ads. Even as billions of dollars pour into TV and CTV advertising, the latest consumer researchOpens a new window confirms that at least 76% of people do not actively pay attention to TV ads. Much of that distraction comes from our smartphones since 79% of consumers take out their phones or other devices during commercial breaks. While this may seem dire, advertisers have the opportunity to turn that distraction into attention.

TV’s Attribution Problem

Attribution on linear TV has been a close approximation at best. Traditionally, advertisers would have to rely on modeled data or customer surveys to determine their TV ad performance and upfronts make it challenging to adjust campaigns once they’re running. But connected TVs and streaming services give viewers the chance to create their own profiles for personalized viewing recommendations. And though most people share a TV profile, very few share a phone. Maybe there’s a way to use people’s smartphones as a method of attribution on CTV?

See More: Why Blockchain Isn’t a Part of Meta’s Metaverse – Yet

One promising way advertisers are beginning to bridge this gap between smartphones and TVs is through QR codes. QR codes may prove to be the catalyst of change that begins to improve upon the attention and attribution problems of linear TV.

Bridging the Gap: The Case for QR Codes

With the help of QR codes, smartphones can help CTV solve the attention and attribution problems of linear TV, rather than distract viewers away from them. Advertisers can take advantage of the fact that most modern camera apps have built-in QR code scanners to make TV commercials clickable. But of all things, why QR codes?

The pandemic not only increased cord-cutting and time spent on CTV, but also led to the user adoption growth of QR codes that had been expected for years. Our researchOpens a new window revealed that 79% of consumers are now familiar with how to scan QR codes. And since most people have their phones in hand while watching TV, 76% said they would scan a QR code in a TV ad if relevant to them. This makes QR codes the easiest and most convenient tool to drive engagement in TV ads.

For example, Coinbase had great success with QR codesOpens a new window in TV commercials when it debuted during Super Bowl LVI. The QR code brought over 20 million hits to their site, crashing the app, and raised their app from 186th to 2nd place in the app store. Not only that, but Coinbase became one of the Top 5 most talked-about brands on Twitter. But that’s just one case, what are some other uses of QR codes?

5 Reasons Advertisers Are Looking to Use More QR Codes on TV and CTV Spots

With this massive growth in consumer comfort scanning QR codes and the waterfall moment from the Coinbase Super Bowl ad success, advertisers are increasingly looking to include QR codes in their TV strategies for 5 main reasons.

1. Making TV ads “clickable”

One advantage mobile and web ads have over TV is that users can click on them, but QR codes can level the playing field by giving users a way to take action on TV ads in an intuitive way. Using a smartphone, scanning is the equivalent of clicking on CTV, allowing advertisers to lead viewers to store pages, discounts, contests and giveaways, or other desired actions.

2. Improving the attention of TV spots

The Coinbase Super Bowl spot proved that a QR code could capture attention, but the question is, will it still improve engagement if not running during the Super Bowl and if the ad is more than a floating QR code? We ran testsOpens a new window comparing regular TV ads with and without QR codes that showed a 12% increase in attention for TV spots with QR codes. With the improved attention, viewers have better recall and awareness of a brand and its messaging. Yet another opportunity for advertisers to turn distraction into TV ad success with smartphones and QR codes. 

3.Improved attribution 

Like any digital advertising solution, CTV will likely never reach a perfect level of attribution. Instead, it will rely on pulling relevant insights from many different sources that can provide a clearer picture of how CTV ads impacted brand performance. QR codes can provide a very clean data point within that consumer attribution journey. Advertisers can track scans the same way they track clicks to their website and the subsequent behaviors such as bounce rates, pages viewed, leads captured, and sales recorded. 

Additionally, if advertisers use QR Codes that link to trackable in-store actions like coupons, advertisers can also track offline sales. With that holistic view of a customer’s journey, advertisers can use the first-party data to improve the performance of CTV and other channels as well. CTV can be personalized to a customer as easily as mobile, web, and social ads for an authentic, omnichannel experience with more first-party data.

4. One QR code, multiple interactions

User profiles on CTV apps improve with linear TV reporting for households with multiple viewers. However, they are still limited in reporting when multiple people are watching content simultaneously. QR codes enable multiple household members or other individuals to engage with the ad at the same time, further improving necessary data signals for performance and reach reporting.

5. Easier payments

Additionally, consumers are accustomed to making purchases from their phones. Most people have their credit cards, shipping details or other settings saved on their phones. This removes yet another barrier and makes the sale process seamless. And though viewers are making the jump between different digital environments, it’s a smooth transition to an environment they’re already familiar with. 

See More: The Evolving Role of Humans with AI

A New Trifecta

QR codes will not be a magic bullet that improves all challenges facing the TV, but they appear to be one of the cleanest ways for advertisers to close the gap between smartphones and TVs. Ads with QR codes are practically clickable and give advertisers more attribution signals to improve campaigns. QR codes better capture viewers’ attention and can even interact with multiple viewers in a household at once. And with the added convenience of digital wallets and payment methods, it is easier for viewers to scan a QR code and make a CTV purchase in a smartphone environment. QR codes can turn smartphones from a distraction into a valuable tool to help CTV solve linear TV’s attention and attribution problems. 

Do you agree that QR codes will bridge the TV and smartphone gap? Tell us on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We’d love to know what you think!