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Blippar, which launches in a few weeks, is a new augmented reality mobile app, which aims to make it easier for mobile users to interact with offline advertising. 

The apps use image recognition to launch interactive content on the user's phone, so an image or logo on the ad is the trigger to launch content on the phone. 

By offering a simpler user experience, the Blippar apps do have the potential to become a valuable tool for multichannel marketers, offering potential for extending campaigns beyond print, billboards, or whatever advertising medium is being used. 

As with QR codes, these apps mean that brands have an opportunity to adapt their marketing messages based on where consumers are geographically when they see them, and also what that location may tell you about their habits. 

The question here, as Econsultancy guest blogger Dave Wieneke explains with reference to QR codes, is whether they will gain widespread adoption. To get people to download and use these apps, it will be necessary to include a compelling offer, such as discount codes, special offers, and great content.

Indeed, a survey on QR code use in Japan, quoted in Dave Wieneke's article, finds that the three most compelling reasons for use were to use a coupon, apply for special promotions, or to find out more about a product. 

I've been asking Blippar Marketing Director Jessica Butcher why she thinks Blippar will be a QR code killer, and how they intend to overcome any barriers to adoption... 

Apart from the code itself, how does Blippar differ from QR codes? 

Blippar effectively makes QR codes defunct. Rather than adding an ugly black and white pixellated box to an ad creative, Blippar can take the creative itself (the whole poster, a logo, the product itself) as the trigger for an interactive engagement.  

The only engagement QR offers is a web link for your smart phone (assuming the pixellated box is recognised from a photo the phone takes of it – which, according to user experience, it frequently isn’t). 

The Blippar technology is a much more reliable user experience (recognises an image trigger within seconds –at angles, from distance and in poor light conditions). 

Also it can offer a whole world of potential virtual content on the phone screen including overlayed 3D experiences (3D product views, games etc), video, e-coupons, GPS enabled directions to nearby outlets, web links and more.   

Which mobile platforms are you launching apps for? 

We are launching on Apple store (iOS) and Android and we will absolutely build to others as we see how the market for those OS plays out. 

As with QR codes, an app needs to be downloaded to enable people to use Blippar, which can be a barrier to adoption. How will you overcome this and build awareness? 

Yes, Blippar needs to be downloaded to the phone (although once downloaded it’s the one-stop shop for all brand-engagement of this kind, rather than going branded-app by branded app).   

We are driving downloads through a combination of the following:

  • Our own guerrilla/ PR activity to launch the platform and get it onto phones. We intend to have a lot of fun with these, including the ‘blipp’ing of functional, every day items.
  • Early partners putting money into press and outdoor creatives would incorporate a simple three-step educational graphic into their creative, for which we’ll offer discounted platform access. The size of creative and creative direction of the ad will dictate exactly what this looks like.
  • Press/ magazine ‘take overs’ where download directions and application education is done through both the editorial and the blippable content/ adverts on display.  

Do you have many advertisers on board for the launch?

I can't say too much at this stage, but we already have a number of brand partners interested in launching with us (with six confirmations prior to launch) and are mid negotiation on creative-direction, timelines etc.  

Graham Charlton

Published 26 May, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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Benoit Maison

Interesting, but this calls for a few comments.

If you can recognize a logo at an angle, from a distance and in poor lighting conditions, then it should be possible to recognize a QR code in the same conditions, with even better reliability. QR codes may be ugly, but they were designed specifically for that after all.

QR codes are standard: a lot of people know what they are and what they can do with them. Teaching people that their smartphone can read logos (or some other proprietary code) is going to be an uphill battle.

Ultimately, you need to give people a reason to scan those things. Paying them to do it will work of course. Giving away free stuff always does. Providing content that they will naturally want to access is another matter.

over 5 years ago

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Dan

There are many different technologies like this including Digimarc....it's just there has to be a "call-to-action"...

What good is the saturation of offline-to-online print media when QR codes can do it all with an app and a standard that everyone recognizes?

Daqri is proving just that- http://mcloughlin.ca/insights/qr-code-optimization-a-different-concept-by-daqri/

over 5 years ago

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James Hall

I think it makes sense not to have QR codes, I dont see the point at looking and aiming towards black n white square, when the whole brands advertisement could be interacted with using image recognition technology. Blippar seems impressive and if it works, Qr codes will not survive.

over 5 years ago

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Giles Taylor

What a demo of AR. I have never seen anything this good in augmented reality. Sampling a watch from a newspaper. That's definitely the future.

over 5 years ago

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Rick Harrison

One point I would make is that QR have instant visual recognition - it's distinctive so you can easily spot a QR code while walking down the street and know that you can interact with it by scanning it. Also any QR app can read any QR code.

While AR is an exciting new area it's still got a lot of maturing to do - first, it's a pain in the ass having to have several different AR apps on your phone as you need the correct one for a given creative, and until someone comes up with a nice simple easily-identifiable logo that shouts "AR Interaction here!" you're highly reliant on a punter bothering to read some technobabble next to the creative to point out an AR interaction exists.

Until you can walk down the street and see an advert on a bus-shelter over the road and know straight away that it supports AR and how to view it, it's going to remain a gimmick rather than mainstream?

My view is probably for the short term we'll be using QR codes as AR-code markers - so that people can spot an interaction opportunity, if they scan the QR you can then explain how to install a viewer to view the AR version.

over 5 years ago

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Ralph Anderson

The main reason for using a QR code is that it is instantly recognisable. This is what makes people decide to scan it and why it is designed in this way.

However, this is a highly interesting development. In reference to the limitations of QR code links - everything will have to link to a URL anyway in order to make a booking. The difference is the user experience, not the destination, because the purpose of this technology is to drive users to a website to interact/make a booking/etc. There is also nothing to stop QR codes making a similar development.

over 5 years ago

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Benoit Maison

@Rick It is very likely that QR codes will be used as AR markers, for all the reasons you give.

If people do not scan QR codes on ads, it's not because the codes are ugly or difficult to scan, it's because it's not worth their time. QR or AR, you still need to offer useful/entertaining content.

There are plenty of solid use cases for QR. For example, this company http://www.ibeaken.com/ installs them at touristic sites to let visitors access information in their language on a mobile web page. Simple, useful, and effective.

over 5 years ago

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Stephen Rigg

QR is here, but still not understood by masses. The reason QR never took off because its like a harder way to access web content. Blippar looks completely different offering if i understood it correctly. They bring instant brand engagment on top of existing traditional print media which is fascinating. Its like pure product of digital meets print. The real train passing by while engaging with an an ad in a train station is what caught my attention in the video. Good luck to blippar

over 5 years ago

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Peter Austin @InvisProperty

Makes trademarks much more important, because they are what's recognized. Will trigger lawsuits where several brands, in different business sectors and even different coutries, have similar logos.

over 5 years ago

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dARman

@Rick, I agree. Nice thing about QR codes, any barcode/QR code reader can get the data.

Nice work on your AR technology Blippar team, but I don't agree that Blippar will make QR codes redundant. When you have several million installs of your app, then maybe.

over 5 years ago

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Andy Hopkinson, Industrial Placement - Marketing Communications at Mercedes-Benz UK

Augmented reality is in need of a polished app like this, to take the technology to the mainstream.

Print and Outdoor is in need of a simple, but effective way of linking online activity to offline activity.

The issue here I guess is the same with all apps, it will only be worth investing if a large number of people use the app regularly. If augmented reality is to take off, there needs to be one app which everyone knows is the app to use for augmented reality. Who knows if Blippar will be it?

I'm sure others do the same. I'll download an app which I find interesting or cool, but it has to be really good for me to use it again and again. I think the issue will be providing content which drives people to use the app again and again on print ads, or outdoor. Providing content that is so engaging, that someone would pull out their phone and use the app while walking past an outdoor advert or reading a magazine.

I'll be following Blippar closely and will definitely give it a try once it's released.

over 5 years ago

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Ralph Anderson

Another point is the ability to make QR codes. You can easily download a QR builder and make your own which is why they are becoming so prevalent. How will Blippar be able to compete with this?

over 5 years ago

Daryl Irvine

Daryl Irvine, Digital Creative Director at The Walker Agency

QR codes are a free technology (no proprietary licensing from 3rd party), recognizable and already gaining traction. It has taken a while but to presume new tech from a start-up with the same barriers to use and an added cost will kill them off is a stretch...but stranger things have happened in digital ;)

over 5 years ago

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Craig

This is great for big businesses with big budgets but who knows what it will cost to make this popular with small businesses or brands? This is cool stuff but my advice to Blippar is do not have a scarcity mindset and make it simple for anyone to do this with any product. That will make it soar very quickly. QR codes may still play a vital role for companies, especially small ones that can't afford a Blippar.

over 5 years ago

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Matt Stone

Blippar is definitely one to watch. Besides the AR vs QR debate, brands need a bridge between offline and digital and blippar idea seems to be the one which can provide.

over 5 years ago

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Jason DaPonte

Over the years I've worked with and tested QR codes in a number of trial services (including putting them into TV programmes).

Quite simply, UK consumers never 'got it' or outright rejected the idea of using them (Korea and Japan being exceptions).

While they are standard, they're simply not user friendly and the service design of software browsers around them simply isn't up to scratch.

I'm all for image-recognition based AR as I think it will make it accessible to mainstream audiences.

about 5 years ago

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Denis

I think the blippar technology of image recognition would be far more acceptable and user friendly over QR codes.
QR codes require sharp printing over clear backgrounds, otherwise they dont scan. The greatest disadvantage is you have to go near the QR image to get pixel level recognition. For that matter, image recognition technology will rule, as the entire image is responding and engaging.

Enjoyed the video demonstration of the technology. @Econsultancy Can we know more about the business? When are they going live?

about 5 years ago

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Robert

This has already been done with Google's Goggles in trial campaigns. Other image rec apps are coming to market as well. Or, there's text recognition that's improving...

As the above comments indicate, the real issue is that these non-code ads don't trigger the immediate awareness of them being scanable in the same way a QR or 2D code inherently elicit a call to action.

That said, QR is being also being leapt over for physical locations (in store) by the pending NFC juggernaut. It's going to be difficult to compete with that user experience and likely broad user adoption.

Sure, QR and image recognition work in publications but as publication circulation decreases is that where you want to claim success?

about 5 years ago

Nico Koepke

Nico Koepke, CEO at KODIME LtdSmall Business

@Jason, I think your experience is just having been ahead of the curve?

We have pushed QR Codes for more than 3 years, but only since this year these are really taking off with the consumer, as we see every day in responses generated from our client's campaigns in newspapers and direct marketing.

To be honest, I am astonished at the high number of decodes - also when compared to the more traditional "text for info" SMS concept.

As far as AR and blippar etc are concerned, it feels these are technologies trying to find an audience rather than the other way round. Yes it can be fun for the occasional nerdy and game-centric user, but to launch these over QR Codes this year would mean massive drop in usage and response. There will be marketers who think this is sexy and less "damaging" to the creative in an ad (one of the big hurdles for QR campaigns is the resistance by creative types to include them), but I am with @Daryl above.

about 5 years ago

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D

Has the author of this article considered explaining what QR is??????!!!!!!!

about 5 years ago

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Macwad

I love this kind of capability, but I have an awareness of it having worked in a cloud based tech business for the last 3 years.

Now back in traditional outdoor and sports media and nobody..I mean nobody knows what a QR code is here and most aren't even aware of depoying sms CTA capability.

I have spent the last 3 weeks trying to persuade the CEO of the value add this would be for our clients...but education sales, even internal are always tough.

My big questions here are Blippar Who?, QR What? because the awareness is just not there among the populace, never mind the questions over desire-to-utilise barriers mentioned above.

Maybe Blippar needs to spend some good money in traditional awarenes just to begin their journey rather than suggesting their going to take on the World?

almost 5 years ago

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facu medina

it would be great if it also opened up to user ad or media strat creation. more of a professional, or not, open comms tool than a "i got your email" service.

almost 5 years ago

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