Friday, July 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm.

The worst QR code I’ve seen

My post “Death to the QR Code” has now passed the 100 comment mark at Business Insider, with many people telling me that I’m an idiot and that QR codes are the future of advertising.

I still disagree. At best, they’re an awkward user experience. At worst, they’re completely useless.

I’ve been taking photos of QR codes in advertising and marketing materials for a while, and eventually, I’ll post a gallery of them. Some are cute and clever, but many just end up wasting space.

Take this one, for example. Never mind the tasteless ad itself. All you need to know is that this QR code is underground in the New York Subway, where there is no cellphone coverage. Almost no one can scan the code — let alone get their “free video download” — standing in front of this ad. And who’s going to remember to save the barcode for when they’re back in cell signal range? I’d love to know how many downloads they actually delivered during this campaign. (Or if they got any more TV viewers because of it.)

Note also that in this case, the ad doesn’t attempt to explain what “scan” means, what scanning app to use, etc. That’s always a tricky decision to make — do you take up more space educating people about what the barcode does, or do you just assume people will figure it out on their own?

In my experience, the biggest red flag about QR codes in advertising is that every time I’ve asked someone how many people ended up scanning their barcode, they either refused to tell me or said a very small number. I’d love to hear some counter-examples, but I’m not sure they exist outside of Asia, which is a totally different market.

Also: Barcodes I can get behind