This is Sartre.

This is me scratching an itch.

Although there are plenty of statistics that suggest people have scanned QR codes out and about, used Blippar watching television and Aurasma whilst reading their sportsday match programmes, I’m a bit of a sceptic.

Virgin’s provision of free WiFi on the London Underground, the service notably being free to use on Vodafone and EE, has led many to ponder how this will impact on marketing and advertising in the subterranean rat race.

Some have claimed augmented reality (AR) will start to take off as the technology matures along with marketers, and there’s a signal to enable web content for QR codes/ RFID and the like.

However, unless scanning is heavily incentivised, I’m of the opinion there are at least five reasons why this isn’t going to be heavily adopted, and you can agree or disagree in our comments section below.

Mobiles are used by travellers to get rid of subjectivity

Let’s start with a philosophical one. Hell is other people, and other stuff. Escaping into our phones is what we love to do to avoid the world, and there’s no place as synonymous with people ignoring everything than the London Underground.

Using a phone to scan an ad reveals a little bit about you, and could even invite comment. Ergo, not on the Northern Line.

With good WiFi, the underground isn’t a restricted market for ads

If the WiFi is decent, I’m going to be using the web in the same way as I do above ground, but with even greater prioritising of what I load, due to the limited connectivity when underground (only at stations).

Therefore I’m not going to scan an advert for hair loss on a whim (for myriad reasons), or even for a new movie, unless scanning these things is highly incentivised.

Network restrictions are annoying

When I use the WiFi at the moment to Google something, I’m directed to an annoying Virgin gateway page, that stops me from performing many web-based actions, even preventing me from refreshing certain apps.

My email works (blast!) but these restrictions will likely impact on the ability to link to the web from physical ad space, unless care is taken to keep everyone joined up (easier said than done).

Commuters have to keep moving

Stopping pretty much anywhere is not the done thing during the rush hour, even for five or six seconds to scan an ad. The escalators obviously move, too.

The places commuters do stand still on the underground – waiting for a train, or sitting on a train – often only offer obstructed views of ads.

When you’re on a train underground, there’s only WiFi at the moment in each station, not in between, so QR codes on trains (at least in the middle of the network) are still a no.

One thing this does indicate is that perhaps advertisers can prioritise for off-peak traffic, if they are willing to produce scannable posters on the underground network.

To some extent this already happens with advertising underground, as local(ish) evening entertainment takes a decent chunk of the ad space.

Augmented reality isn’t that cool. Its main use will be for directions or finding out about strangers

If I have a tablet on the Underground I can access tons of truly great art. Music, fine art, films, tv series etc. As we’ve seen from Vine, it’s gonna take truly great creative to make a highly reduced interaction time worthwhile.

If I’m scanning an AR poster, it’s going to have to do something truly amazing (outside of some colours and movement) to keep my interest.

Including social content (pics or vids of my Facebook/Twitter friends) or local content (directions to attractions nearby) will probably be the best use of scannable or augmented advertising. These are going to come into play above ground in a big way, once Google glasses and the like get further down their respective waterfalls. 

Inevitably, augmented reality will be another version of reality. What I mean is an augmented reality isn’t going to be one the user wants stuffed with cool moving graphics and adverts.

Giving us information about strangers, and directing us to useful stuff, as well as offering us incentives for both these end uses, is going be the real beauty of using technology out and about.