QVC Goes '2D' With Mobile Phone Test

Students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland are searching campus for icons representing advertising from QVC as part of what backers believe is the largest U.S. test of cellphone-linked 2D code technology.

Widely used in Japan, 2D technology lets phone users take a cellphone picture an icon printed in any medium: newspaper advertising, a billboard, and in the college trial, even shaved on one man's head. Think of the icon as a two-dimensional bar code, which, when transmitted as a picture from the phone, hyperlinks to the advertiser's content.

The market test includes 15,000 university students and staff. It is being conducted as an educational experiment by The Institute for Management and Engineering of the university, using technology from Mobile Discovery of Reston, Va.

David Miller, founder of Mobile Discovery, said the technology will boost data usage over cellphones because it eliminates the need for a user to type in a long hyperlink to get to desired content. The code initially takes a user to a Web page, where they decide whether to opt into content and provide personal information.

The Case Western test is an amalgam of advertising and social networking, he said. Not only are icons posted around campus, but students can design their own 2D codes to direct fellow students to original content, such as pages on the social-networking site Facebook. One student has put a code on his business card that, when scanned, leads to his online resume, Miller said.

Gannett Newspapers and QVC are major advertisers in the trial, through April 21.

“We really think this is the next killer app in advertising,” said QVC senior vice president and chief marketing officer Jeff Charney. The home shopping network's application in the test is “The Q Code: Make It or Break It.”

Charney said QVC was attracted to the venture because the codes are compatible with all cellular carriers. The network had complete creative freedom, and the test allows it to “reach students on their own terms.”

“We like that it's a pull technology, not a push. It's not intrusive, it's friendly. That's important for us,” he said.