The second screen of a printed commercial

The modern world is full of printed commercials in various forms – city posters, leaflets, magazine advertisements. Although they are different, they all have a common attribute – they are static. The consumer can only watch them. Is it going to be this way forever? I hope not.

How can this be changed? By making advertisements interactive, that is, allowing the reader to perform some simple action, and so get more content. But why would an advertiser try to do this, what’s the reason? I’ll try to show how an interactive advertisement simply creates more sales than an ordinary one, for one simple reason – they are just much more interesting.


Let’s take a look at the page from a games magazine above, whose content is a game review. The page is wholly static, which is old-fashioned nowadays. To improve the interaction with the reader, the publisher could include some additional, background matter (the so-called second screen), making the page interactive.

How can this be done? Some people would suggest “using QR codes”, but this causes some major problems:

– QR code requires space on the page, for which the advertiser must pay.
– QR code violates the graphical appearance of the page.
– QR code is a redirection to a single source of content only.
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How can it be done better? Well, the answer is simple – use image recognition technology. First of all, the publisher doesn’t have to make any changes to the page’s graphical layout. The additional content can be attached to the pictures that are going to appear in the article anyway. This solves two of the problems of QR code-based solutions listed above. The way to interact with the page is pretty simple – the user takes a photo of an article, and is given a number of possible actions. The reader can choose what to do next – to read more, to watch a movie related to the article, or maybe to buy the game he’s just read about. This way, the article gets a second screen, and the third “QR problem” is resolved.

The benefits are obvious for all three parties. The reader gets additional information, and he can buy a game while reading the review, without having to search for it on the Internet or online shops. The game is ready to be bought, so the customer saves time. The game developer knows that the game can be bought very easily, so he’s more interested in publishing reviews in magazines. This helps the magazine publisher who, in short, sells space in the magazine. Moreover, the publisher can turn the magazine into a virtual store, earning profits from the items sold through it, making the magazine more attractive.

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Similarly, there are benefits from making other kinds of advertisement interactive. A poster for a concert can be used to distribute the tickets for it or to sell the artist’s CDs. It can redirect to a webpage containing more information or show the location of the event in Google Maps.

A good example of an application based on image recognition technology is SaveUp, which allows the user to buy an item by taking its picture. The SaveUp application (so far, available for the Polish market only) divides products into four categories: books, music, movies and games. With SaveUp, I can buy a book by taking a photo of its cover. I can do the same with a video game by taking a photo of its packaging, a page from a paper magazine, a billboard, or even a TV screen. See how easy is this?

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Using this technology, I can book a cinema ticket while waiting at a bus stop where a movie poster is displayed. I know perfectly well that I wouldn’t be able to find the time to book the ticket later in the day or after I came back home tired. In fact, I buy more, because it costs me less.

An interactive advertisement has a much stronger impact on the customer than a static one. Creating the advertisement using image recognition technology is easy and cheap, while the benefits can be extensive. In this post, I have presented only some examples of interactive actions. One should always keep in mind that there are many more possibilities. The only limit seems to be human creativity.

Pawel Blazejowski

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