I was driving home the other day when I saw a sign by the side of the road. A number of them actually, similar to lawn signs you see around election-time. Spaced about 20 metres apart, they looked identical but they didn’t have a single word on them. They were simply large QR codes.

According to Wikipedia, QR (Quick Response) codes have been around since 1994 when they were invented by a subsidiary of Toyota to track vehicles during the manufacturing process.

More recently, with the rise in popularity of Smartphones equipped with QR code readers, they have been popping up in all sorts of print communications from newspapers and magazine ads to movie posters and Government of Ontario public awareness campaign materials.

This QR code redirects to EDC's 2010 Annual Report website

This QR code redirects to EDC's 2010 Annual Report website

Although QR codes can store a variety of information, they are most commonly used to redirect a user’s Smartphone to a (hopefully) mobile-optimized website or micro-site specific to the topic or campaign. Last year, Best Buy added QRs to their in-store product tags. Earlier this year, Pondstone used QR codes on Export Development Canada’s 2010 Annual Report to direct users to the Annual Report website we created.

Not only do QR codes provide a means of presenting targeted content to an audience already expressing interest in your message, but analytics can provide you with feedback on the level of engagement you are achieving with your campaign.

In Ontario, there is a law that prohibits the use of handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle, so I have no idea what content the creators of the roadside posters wanted to share with me. QR codes, used properly, can be a highly effective way of sharing information but since my query is on a high-speed road with no stopping I’ll have to enlist the help of a passenger if I am to solve the mystery of this message.

Thanks for reading and drive safe.