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QR codes - the key to scaling Connected TV ads on YouTube

For marketers promoting mobile apps via YouTube, there is one extremely notable figure from 2021: 55.4%. This, according to Insider, is the percentage of U.S. users that watched YouTube content via connected TV (CTV) devices in 2021. This percentage marks an increase from 52.8% in 2020 and 33.8% in 2019 and is expected to grow to 60.8% in 2025. Behind this number is an impressive 123.8 million people.

One could argue that this is a trend in the U.S. only. Indeed, the number of people watching YouTube via CTV worldwide is considerably lower: a Conviva survey calculated that in the second quarter of 2021, 14% of worldwide YouTube viewing time is distributed via CTV, compared to 63% via mobile.

However, it is plain to see that the high percentages in the U.S. correlate with the fact that the country is the leading market when it comes to CTV, with 64.5% of the entire population being CTV users. Penetration in other countries is not as high, but it’s certainly catching up: smart TV unit sales alone will rise from 209.3 million in 2019 to 266.4 million by 2025, according to Research and Markets. With more and more CTV devices available, CTV viewing of YouTube content will certainly increase and is on a trajectory to become a worldwide standard.

Mobile app marketers should undoubtedly already take advantage of the fact that in the U.S., the majority of people watching YouTube are doing so via CTV devices.

The method

So, what can marketers do? Well, it’s as easy as adding a QR code to your YouTube CTV ad. Technically, a QR code scan equals a click on an ad, as it takes the user to a different location. Both deterministic and probabilistic, this is measurable. In fact, with the QR code, you not only make impact measurable, but you also turn YouTube from a brand awareness channel into a performance tool.

But, wait, you are probably asking yourself: a QR code? That overhyped technology from the early 2010s? Yes! QR codes are no longer just a trend or hype, they’re part of our everyday lives. Ever since the covid-19 pandemic kicked off, we’ve gotten used to checking into public spaces, signing in at doctors’ appointments and events, and even reading restaurant menus via QR codes. Some call it a comeback. But if you are in China, that will sound weird, as the vast majority of payments — including those at street food stalls — are completed using QR codes.

How to integrate QR codes into CTV ads

Your potential customers are sitting at home watching their favorite show via a connected TV device, and they probably have their mobile phones near them. Adjust research shows that dual screening, i.e. people using mobile devices while watching TV, is extremely common. On top of this, most CTV devices allow users to use their mobile devices as remote controls. So, all you are doing is giving your audience the option to respond to your ad directly, simply by scanning a QR code and being forwarded to the relevant app store to start using your mobile app.

Of course, there are bad ways to implement QR codes in ads. In the past, QR codes were implemented in billboards next to highways or in subway stations with no connectivity. When implementing QR codes in a YouTube ad, you can learn from these mistakes. People need a reasonable amount of time to scan their QR code, ideally in a distraction-free environment, and YouTube ads are the perfect format.

A good example of this is this Burger King ad. Let’s consider the storyboard of the ad: there is a clear hook ‘Food Reviewer’, a clear presentation of the product with all its tasty components, and a clear erasure of doubt, with the reviewer explaining the only thing missing from the burger is a second mouth. Subsequently, the product is further incentivized by informing consumers you can get 2 burgers for 5$ and that delivery is free. That’s when the QR code is presented. It’s shown on a fixed screen that stays on for 10 seconds, with music and a voice-over distinct from the rest of the ad. Additionally, consumers are informed that if they fail to scan the QR code now, they will have a chance to do so again in an additional segment.

In short: the QR code does not blur the message of the ad but is instead an integral part of the call to action. In another ad, Burger King even went so far as to gamify the process of scanning, with a QR code floating over the screen after a countdown, rewarding consumers who managed with a free burger. With ad formats changing as TV digitalizes further, ways to utilize QR codes will continue to develop.

The results

So the method is there, but does it actually work? To be fair, not many mobile app marketers have applied QR codes in their CTV ads yet. CTV is still fairly new for a lot of mobile advertisers and there are many methods to test and experiment with. However, we’re seeing extremely promising results from those who are implementing QR codes. One client even saw an 800% conversion rate uplift after adding QR codes to their CTV ads.

This year, we're working to break down the success of QR codes, pivoted by vertical, platform, and seasonality. And for now, we’d like to invite you to experiment.

Start incorporating QR codes into your ads on YouTube, and any other CTV/OTT platform and you’ll see your campaigns scale as you transform the channel from brand awareness to performance. Learn how to track QR codes here, and more about how to turn CTV into a performance channel with our CTV AdVision solution here.

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