Powa Does Away With QR Codes to Allow Instant Orders Off Print Ads, Packages

Technology Could Give Print or Packages Interactivity Like Digital Ads

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Powa Technologies, which aims to make all ads "shoppable" by letting people scan them with their smartphones to buy products online, is taking another step to make that process easier -- doing away with the need for QR codes so people can scan the print ads whole.

BigSexyHair is among the first brands to try Powa.
BigSexyHair is among the first brands to try Powa. Credit: Courtesy of BigSexyHair

Participating brands can upload the ad images to Powa to activate the technology, said Powa CEO Dan Wagner. The same process will work for product packages, so marketers won't have to use scarce space or find ways to incorporate QR codes into the designs. L'Oreal USA and BigSexyHair are among marketers with 1,600 brands signed on to try the technology.

Mr. Wagner said the technology can give print publishers the same sort of interactive back channel that digital publishers have. It might, he said, help brands instantly capture a sale from someone swayed by a Scotch ad who might otherwise be lured away again through a rival brand's in-store promotion.

Given the sub 1% click-through rates of most digital advertising, however, it's yet to be seen whether people will be any more likely to interact with print ads.

The potential for extending Powa to packages gives packaged-goods marketers a new potential pathway to easily connect directly to their consumers, rather than through retailers. Instead of, say, putting Amazon Dash buttons around the house, people could instantly reorder products simply by scanning packages with their phones. And the orders wouldn't necessarily go to Amazon. They could go to other default retailers chosen by the brands or by the consumers.

Powa doesn't charge marketers to upload their ad or package images into the system, but does charge on a per-transaction basis when people use the app to buy a product, respond to a promotion or add their details to a database. The cost averages 40 cents per transaction, but can be as low as say 5 cents for a $5 purchase, Mr. Wagner said.

While brands can simply upload their standard ads or package images post-production, Mr. Wagner said a better option is watermarking creative in a way that isn't obvious to consumers but can be detected by the system. That way, marketers can analyze differences in responses to various magazine titles, or perhaps track where people bought the products they're reordering.

"If I have one ad in 14 titles, I can watermark each separately, and even though the ad is identical, I'll know this publication converted better than that publication," he said.

Powa has had about 100,000 people download its app so far, but without any concerted effort behind that yet. Mr. Wagner is instead focused on working with financial institutions, telecom companies, media and social media companies incorporate Powa into their apps. He declined to say which are in the process of doing so.

"So when I fire it up, I can wave my banking app over the ad and I'm done," Mr. Wagner said. "We're kind of hiding in plain sight. We've built this infrastructure, and when we go live it's going to be everywhere."

While doing away with the need for QR codes affects print, packaging and some in-store advertising, Powa is also designed to collect data from digital, TV, radio and outdoor advertising using various means and allowing instant online ordering or response to each.

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