Monthly Archives: November 2010

ASUS Computers Gets a 404 Fail

From Randy Leslein (edited):

This week’s mobile campaign was found in the lastest (Oct. ’10) edition of Wired magazine. I found the ad by scavenging the entire magazine in hopes of finding some sort of mobile campaign taking place. Oddly enough, the QR code presented on this ad was the lone thing I found in this technology magazine that is just saturated with marketing.

image: Asus QR

Asus ad in Wired Magazine

To participate with the QR code you must have a mobile device capable of reading and an internet connection. Well, that is if you want to experience the delight of a “Page not found” (image) site. Because once you scan the code, that’s where you are taken.

Once again, the world of QR code fails.

There was no payoff, and again I was left curious as to the mystery of what the code contained. I even spent a good amount of time googling variations of “Asus nx90JQ wired qr code”, with nothing left to be found. I’m starting to think that making these things available to the searchable internet may be a good idea for the campaign creators.

Having such technology in a venue that targets people who usually have smart phones also seems wise. Maybe next time they will do some more internal testing.


What could have saved this campaign?
Randy pretty much sums it up. Testing. The QR code was clearly created before the magazine went to print. If someone had simply tested the code before finalizing the ad this failure would have been avoided. This should be SOP.
Unfortunately, ASUS didn’t use a QR generator that supports redirect which would have allowed them to change the URL (it was missing “Jq” at the end), fixing the error.
ASUS still could just replicate the landing page at both URLs. Why they haven’t done this is a mystery. Perhaps they still haven’t tested it?
Then again, the corrected url simply points to a full, non mobile-friendly landing page where you have to pan the screen in all directions or zoom out and make the text too small to read. *sigh* – Kelly

Salvation Army Needs a Helping Hand With MS Tag

From Monique Priestley (edited):

Okay, I feel guilty for picking on the Salvation Army, but geez…

image: SAL Bus Ad

Salvation Army Bus Ad

On the 74 Express bus from Downtown Seattle to Sand Point. There was a Salvation Army advertisement with a small Microsoft Tag. (Yes, that’s right, a small Microsoft Tag on a banner that was along the roof of a moving bus.)

The ad was one for the Salvation Army of Seattle — you needed to scan a small Microsoft Tag (with an MS Tag Reader of course) and you could donate money. It didn’t tell you how much or give you any other options.

Personally, I think it would be a great idea if companies advertising on the buses attempted a mobile ad or two. Of course, as I mentioned before… these things are moving — and the ads are on the roof. Something like SMS is a good idea because riders could put a code into a phone and receive a quick message back. But a QR/Microsoft Tag? On the ceiling of a moving vehicle? How exactly do they expect users to hold the phone still, up in the air above their head, close enough for the scanner to read a tiny 2D barcode? I can barely keep my hand still enough and close enough to scan those pesky MS Tags when they are on a stationary piece of paper right in front of me (they are really fussy). The bus never held still long enough for me to try it (plus I felt like an idiot holding my phone up to the ceiling, trying to hold on as the bus rocked all over the place).

It was the saddest excuse for a mobile ad that I have tried so far.


It Gets Better…Once at my desk I did a quick search for “salvation army qr.” I got one result that looked promising, I sent the site to my DROID and the YouTube video played but I didn’t dare enter my number to test [donations] because it NEVER says ANYWHERE how much you’re about to donate. For all I know they set the figure to $100 or $1,000,000 (it could happen).


What could have saved this campaign?
Salvation Army gets credit for trying but this portion of their campaign is really poorly done.  You may not have noticed but the advertisement is promoting donations and yet the video that plays as a result of scanning the tag is promoting volunteer-ism.  The only thing that would have saved this campaign is to use SMS instead of MS Tag. This simply is not a good place for a 2D code. The organization already has an SMS donation option (text “SAL” to 50555) and bus riders can participate simply by reading the call-to-action from where they sit. Optionally, the SMS could trigger the exact same URL at which the MS Tag is pointed.  Additionally, and less critically, the video should support the ‘Donate Now’ theme rather than trying to layer in a volunteer pitch.

AT&T Has Its Own Barcode – Fail

If you’ve read many of the FAILs on this site you won’t be very surprised to see another one tied to the use of a QR (Quick Response) code. That is, unless it comes from one of the largest mobile companies on the planet.

MediaPost has an ad running (or did) in its November 10 edition of the MobileMarketingDaily email publication. The entire email (well, the three prominent ads in it) appeared to be

image: AT&T Barcode Banner ad

AT&T Barcode Banner Ad

dedicated to a promotion  for Mobile Barcodes from AT&T (Mobility).  I was curious about this, wondering if AT&T was trying to commercialize a technology that is for all intents and purposes free.  So, of course, I clicked one of the ads.

I was presented with a rather nice flash-based landing page promoting the AT&T Mobile Barcode Service.  The main thrust of the page is to get you to watch a video. On the main landing page there’s a video for marketers and on the “Experience” page the video teaches consumers about mobile barcodes. Oddly, neither of the videos or the site use the term ‘QR code’, which made me wonder if the lawyers made them strike it for potential copyright issues.

The other call-to-action, aside from the standard request for more info, is “Want to scan this barcode? Click here.”

image: AT&T Scan now bubble

Cool! Ok. I clicked and out popped a fairly large image of a barcode/QR code and beneath it instructions to “..visit on your Smartphone to download the free code scanner app.” Do I really need to download a new reader?  I already have 4 barcode scanners on my HTC Hero but one is forimage: AT&T barcode Microsoft Tag and the other is built into a Best Buy app. MS Tag is clearly different – to me, at least – and the Best Buy app probably only works on consumer products, though I don’t really know. I’ve had good luck with NeoReader scanning barcodes in magazines and such so I popped open NeoReader. One of the AT&T videos mentioned using barcodes in magazines so this seems to make sense. Scanning the code NeoReader said it found: “Code: 5415400001005399″. That’s funny, I usually get a URL. Oh well. I select ‘continue’ and let the app do the work. I end up on the NeoReader site,, where I see an error message saying that the code is invalid.
image: AT&T QR Error

Hmm.. Maybe I’ll try a different scanner. I try the ShopSavvy app. Nope. ShopSavvy doesn’t even recognize it as a barcode at all. Grrr.. Do I really need to use the scanning app that AT&T told me about from Seriously? No, I won’t, and neither will most people.


There is no way that QR codes are going to proliferate if each style of code requires its own scanner. To be fair, however, I downloaded the app, which is proudly provided by MobileTag, and it worked perfectly. Great. Now I have 5 barcode readers.


What could have saved this campaign?
Well, it isn’t really a campaign as much as it is a puzzling decision to use a technology that requires it’s own scanner/reader. But there is the issue. Why would the second largest mobile operator in the U.S. use a proprietary technology or, at best, a technology that is not compatible with others in the market? The only thing that will save this is to make the barcodes they’ve committed to scanable by other barcode readers. They may, indeed, have the best barcode technology and reader but at this point they need compatibility; too many smartphone holders have a scanner app already installed.

Oddly, the ad in the MediaPost email that I clicked on was no longer available 4 hours after I received it. Clicking on it takes you to the MediaPost CMS platform provider, Maybe AT&T discovered their problem?

Senator Patty Murray’s Re-election Campaign Toys with Mobile

From Jay Holcomb at Knovolo:

Our Knovolo office happens to be across the street from the main campaign location of Washington State’s incumbent Senator Patty Murray. One day the way back from lunch, we noticed that her officewas promoting a short code, and we checked it out.
The call to action, also advertised on her Facebook and Twitter profiles (but, strangely, nowhere to befound on her main website) was simply

“text PATTY to 68398 for mobile campaign updates!”image: text Patty ad

Props to the Murray team for embracing mobile, even if they don’t quite get it yet. The 2 or 3 updates we received per month were relevant and timely. Most of the messages we received had a link in them, which in principle is a good idea because that enhances the mobile user experience from plain text to a webpage where you can have colors, pictures, and other goodies. However, none of the pages were mobile-friendly and ALL LINKS IN SMS MESSAGES should point to MOBILE PAGES.
Text messaging is available on just about every mobile phone out there, and this includes “featurephones” such as bar phones and flip phones. Feature phones have minimal browsers that aren’t capable of handling the feature-rich desktop websites like those that Patty Murray texted to us.
Whereas some smartphones – such as the iPhone, Android, and newer Blackberries – can render desktop websites well enough that they can actually be useful, they only comprise about 27% of the total mobilesubscriber base (in U.S.). This means that more than 70% of mobile subscribers have phones that can’t handle desktop websites.
The majority of people that participated in this campaign probably had a poor and lacking experience. Wanting to be somewhat involved and show their support for Patty Murray, everything they received pointed back to a site on, which doesn’t have anything to offer mobile users. The main point of a mobile campaign is not to send everyone to your desktop website. The main purpose is to interact and engage end-users in the mobile arena.


The short code and texting program is certainly a step in the right direction, and props to the PattyMurray campaign for thinking about mobile: this was something her opponent, Dino Rossi, didn’t have. However, Murray fell short in both tailoring to mobile phone web browsers and adequately engaging constituents on the mobile arena.


What could have saved this campaign?
1. When sending texts from their short code, 68398 , all links to webpages must be mobile-optimized
2. Mobile version of homepage, with device detection to provide mobile devices with a good user experience
3. Having engaged constituents on mobile with the initial call to action, engage them fully in the mobile arena with features such as:

  1. Browser website, blog, campaign platform, social networks, news etc in a mobile-friendly environment
  2. Make campaign donations via SMS
  3. Sign up for volunteer shifts
  4. Get information about voting

TIME Magazine Frames a FAIL

A recent post by ChinWonder had me trying yet another QR code. The code didn’t work for her so I thought it may be a FAIL worth talking about.  Well, the QR code worked for me but here’s what I found instead.

The Time Frames project is a web-based effort to organize history into some broad categories, or frames, through which you can explore related content from the TIME

image:Time Mag pop-up ad

Pop-Up Ad

archives.  Not a bad idea, I guess.  That is, until you try it on your mobile phone. It’s true, the site does load, though verrry slowly and not before a pop-up ad that is also too big for

the screen. Who knows how much of my mobile data plan is being chewed up by an image-rich site that is designed for broadband Internet users?

Panning across and up and down the site is a neat trick enabled by the touch screen on my phone the technique makes it hard to understand how, exactly, the page is organized. I tried zooming out to fit the whole site on the screen but then the text was impossible to read so I had to zoom back in and continue panning. As I do this, however, I notice a blank space with the notice, “We’re sorry. HTML5 players are currently not enabled for this account.” Huh? Who’s account?image:Time Mag Bad HTML Player What is an HTML5 player anyway? Something is broken there. There are also several flash elements on the page that are trying to load (and never will on iPhones) with intermittent success. Disregarding these I selected an article on Pope John Paul II from 1984 and the slow page-loading process started again. Sigh.

This time I scroll all the way to the bottom of the page just to see exactly how big this page is (I don’t have much patience for long articles).  It isn’t terribly long but there is a page counter that says I’m on page one of eight. Forget it. But wait! At the bottom of the page is a little box with an image of a mobile phone that says, “Read TIME Mobile on Your Phone.” Yay! A mobile version! Click. Wait. Wait some more. I’m taken to another non-mobile web page with the header ‘TIMEMobile’ and five tabs, one each for Android, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Mobile Site. Not being a big app fan I select the Mobile Site. The page loads – quicker this time, which is promising – and now the new sub headline says,

image: Time Mobile


“ The easy way to access from your smartphone.” Ok.. I was really just expecting to go right to the mobile site but it appears the editors at TIME want me to click one more time. Fine. I try clicking the big, red ‘’ and…nothing. It’s not a link. I can’t click anywhere on the page to actually get to the mobile site! They have a mobile site and I can’t even get to it without typing it into my phone’s browser.

I’m done. FAIL.


What might have saved this campaign?
Between spotty QR scanning success and the lack of access to the mobile site this campaign is in pretty tough shape.  At the very heart of TIME magazine’s problem here is that they are not recognizing mobile devices that access their site and providing a device-appropriate experience. Layered on top of that are efforts like Time Frames that don’t create a mobile version yet encourage access via mobile device. Perhaps the Time Frames team should read this.
Time needs a more strategic approach to mobile and really re-think their web experience with mobile at the center rather than mobile as an add-on. All project teams need to be in sync on this. In addition, they need to test the user experience from a variety of devices and ask themselves if broken video players and flash elements are acceptable and in keeping with their brand; I suspect it isn’t.

Ski Utah Does a Faceplant

Ski Utah is the marketing firm owned and operated by the 13 statewide ski resorts thatimage: Utah Ski QR Code make up the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association. Their most recent campaign tagged, The Utah White Sale, promotes “..big savings on lodging, rentals, and lift tickets..”. As part of the campaign, Ski Utah, threw down for a two-page spread in SKI magazine.  With this ad they prominently display a QR code with the copy, “Use the QR code or visit to check out all the amazing deals!”

I happen to know what to do with a QR code so I pull up NeoReader on my HTC Hero and scan the code, which worked perfectly and I’m asked to confirm that I want to visit the resulting URL. Sure I do!

Waiting, waiting. The site takes awhile to load but load it does and I’m looking at the top left corder of what appears to be a full, image-rich web page. I see approximately 10% of the page. Yikes!  Dragging the pageimage: Utah Ski from Mobile Device right and left trying to see what’s on it is disorienting so I use the multi-touch feature on my phone and zoom out so the site fits the screen. The problem now is, I can’t read the text.  (The image on the right is full-size.)


I do notice a graphic in the bottom left that says, “Ski Utah Mobile Apps”. Bingo! I tap the phone image and the site tries to open another browser window but I get an error that says I have too many windows open (there are 4) and I can’t get to the page. Apparently the content-rich pages have eaten up all the browser memory. Sigh.


What could have saved this campaign?
Ski Utah had a couple of options here but both start with providing the reader directions on how to use a reader to scan the QR code. These codes are still new to most people. Then:

  1. They could have made a version of the promotional page that was optimized for mobile viewing by reducing imagery, increasing font sizes and removing the Flash elements. This would, of course, involve device detection, which the site doesn’t appear to do, or
  2. The QR code could have taken me directly to their mobile site at (I know, they actually have a mobile site but instead the QR code takes me to the regular site.)

Reebok Fails with MMS

From Madeline Moy

I have discovered that my LG enV Touch phone can’t read QR codes or Microsoft Tags. However, it does take great photos.

So when I saw a Reebok EasyTone ad in “Shape” magazine that involved taking a photo of a “SnapTag” and sending it to an e-mail address or phone number, I thought, cool, I can finally participate in one of these mobile campaigns.image:Reebok in Shape

The directions next to the tag said: “Snap a picture of the Reebok EasyTone logo and send it to or 949.331.8147. You will receive an exclusive workout video from Reebok and automatically be entered to win a collection of Reebok gear.”

I took a photo of the SnapTag and sent it to the e-mail address. Nothing happened. I took another picture, and I sent it to the phone number. This time I got an immediate response. Unfortunately it said, “We are unable to read the image you sent. If it looks fuzzy to you it is fuzzy to us. Send another photo of the logo with the ring. Std Msg rates apply.”

The photo I sent didn’t look fuzzy to me, but I went ahead and took another photo. I sent it, and I received an SMS message with just a YouTube URL.  I couldn’t click on the link from my phone so I tried to access it on my computer, but all I got was a page that said, “The video you requested is not available.”


At this point I gave up. I had known that I probably wouldn’t have been able to watch the Reebok video on my phone, but it was disappointing not to be able to even access them using a computer. And I was put off by the tone of the text messages I received. They weren’t friendly or helpful and seemed to blame me for not being able to use my phone properly.

Kelly: I also tried this campaign sending the image to the email address I received an email response with subject=”Reebok” (that’s it?) and the body of the message was just a YouTube link. Was I entered to win a collection of Reebok gear or not? It doesn’t say. The video was a huge let-down. Some actress giving a light endorsement of Reebok EasyTone shoes. All this work for an infomercial? Sheesh.


What could have saved this campaign?
It was not with clear understanding that Reebok picked a technique that didn’t require a smartphone. That is, the SnapTag only requires a phone with a camera and MMS abilities – far more phones that just smartphones. The problem, of course, is that the payoff was a YouTube video (and ONLY a video), which is the domain of smartphones almost exclusively.
1) The return SMS should have included a statement about being included in the contest as well as an easy link to type into a browser for those who can’t watch YouTube videos. Better yet, bypass YouTube and use a mobile streaming service, which works on far more devices.
2) The video needed to offer more; more entertainment, more information, even just a more exclusive, behind-the-scenes feel to it as promised.