It’s not magic, all you need to run a QR Code campaign is a QR Code that decodes to a mobile site landing page and a deployment plan.
It’s not a mystery either, a QR or Datamatrix Code is free to generate and use, and you can use it in a print ad, on a can, on a poster or wherever you want.
In addition if you put Google Analytics on your mobile site you can measure the popularity, the conversion rate and ROI of your campaign for free. And the cost of the campaign is simply the cost of deployment plus the cost of the mobile site.
However that is not the way Neustar see it and they have conjured up a methodology worthy of a 19th century magician. In a Press Release last week they announced the Mobile Barcode Clearinghouse Service and this is how it looks in a diagram taken from their Barcodes Overview Presentation:
You can see from the ecosystem they have created how Neustar intend to generate revenue for themselves and the telcos. Forget all the smoke and mirrors on the periphery of the diagram, the cash generator is the Global Registry and this is where the client or their agency is expected to pay for registering and using a 2d barcode.
Why should anyone pay to register or use a 2d barcode? It’s a good question and Neustar have the answer. You pay because the 2d barcode that you get does not decode as the url of the landing page but as a totally different code that has to be looked up in a database (the Global Registry in the diagram) in order to find the url of the landing page!
Breathtaking isn’t it? The user scans the 2d barcode, it decodes to something like “mc*nsr*54321″ and this is sent through the mobile network operator’s local gateway to Neustar’s clearinghouse. The clearinghouse does a registry lookup then queries Neustar’s campaign manager system for a URL. Then the URL is sent back to the user’s mobile device which downloads the landing page.
Of course this only works if the user’s mobile device is decoding with the Neomedia or I-nigma readers who are Neustar’s partners. If it happens to be using one of the many other readers available the user will be left staring at a meaningless line of alphanumeric characters.
So if you are a brand or an agency with more money than sense and you are thinking of implementing a QR Code campaign then you may wish to play in Neustar’s ecosystem, with its convoluted lookup and reader limitations.
Or you could just do what Google did with its 100,000 QR Code decals or Pepsi with its million cans of QR Coded Pepsi Max, simply initiate a campaign without a superfluous ecosystem.
Added 8 hours later: I have been asked about the security aspects of QR Codes with reference to Neustar’s putative barcode clearinghouse service.
Neustar believe that their indirect QR Coding is inherently more secure because the user’s mobile device only accesses urls registered with their system.
I have three observations:
1. Hackers at the annual Pwn2Own contest have so far been unable to break into or exploit any mobile operating system.
2. QR Codes are no more or less secure than the link they point to, so if a user is obsessively security conscious they will not be clicking any links at all.
3. The only exploit that I know of with QR Codes is QR Code switching and even Neustar would not claim to prevent that…