It’s a bit incongruous. The first thing you see is a Gillette ad showing Kate Upton in a seductive pose with the headline, “How does Kate Upton like her man’s body styled? Read her mind,” with a QR code inside the thought bubble. Then you see the headline to The Business Insider article the ad is used to illustrate: “The 15 Worst QR Code Fails of All Time.”
I have a very hard time imagining that this QR Code was not scanned by every red-blooded American man not offended by that kind of thing. Even more odd was the fact that the article dubbed QR Codes “the gimmick people love to hate.” Maybe, but I’m quite certain that Gillette is hating QR Codes all the way to the bank.
The ad was offensive. It was tacky. The content to which the QR Code pointed was juvenile. But the use of QR Codes was effective and illustrates QR Codes used well.
Why? Whether you agree or disagree with the approach, it caused readers to engage with the ad—and it did so while reinforcing Gillette’s brand. Most likely, the content was created specifically for this advertisement much like the supposedly “nude” millisecond shot of model Laura Stone for the Calvin Klein campaign produced by The Ace Group a number of years ago.
One of the best practices for QR Codes is to provide alternative ways to access the content for people who don’t want to scan the code. Gillette didn’t do that. If people wanted to see it, they had to scan the code.
I haven’t talked to Gillette or its agency, but from talking to Val DiGiacinto at The Ace Group, I know why TAG did it for Calvin Klein back then. They were going after a specific demographic that matched the demographic of QR Code scanners and they wanted the viral sharing that comes with mobile access. TAG’s Calvin Klein campaign was enormously successful, and I imagine this was, too.
It’s funny that The Business Insider chose this ad to illustrate its commentary on QR Code fails. But it did so, I’m quite sure, because it knew that the ad’s tantalizing use of the QR Code would draw people in to read the article. So it used a powerful and well-planned “the gimmick people love to hate” to great effectiveness and its own gain.
Interesting how that works.