Lots of tourism organizations spend money to be included in a print newspaper travel advertising insert.

If you can prove that it works for your destination, more power to you, but all I ask is that you hold print to the same ROI standards as anything else you do in marketing. If you make such ad buys because “that’s what we’ve always done….” I suggest you reconsider that rather flawed decision-making process.

But, back to the ad insert.

Some destinations add QR codes to their print advertisements. Is that a good idea?

There were 4 QR codes in the most recent newspaper fall travel ad insert in my local paper. People paid good money to get their ads in there, but did they think it all the way through?

I hauled out my phone one Sunday morning to test it out. Here’s what I found when I combed through the Texas travel insert (PDF link) in my Austin American-Statesman newspaper. (We’re one of two Old Geezer families on our block who still get a print paper. It’s lonely at the end of our driveway in the early morning.)


**  NONE of the QR codes I scanned went to focused fall travel landing pages with tempting information, deals and events.

How to Fix:  If someone scans your code and is ready to investigate fall travel, you’ll get better conversion and will be more likely to turn them into an actual visitor if you take them right to where they want to go and give them the specific information they’re looking for. Don’t make them swim around in your one-size-fits-most homepage.

**  Two of the QR codes dumped me onto mobile-friendly homepages where I had to start hunting for fall-specific items.

How to Fix:  See above. Why go to the trouble of including all those photos of fall colors, sweaters, pumpkins, hay bales etc. and maple-syrupy autumnal words….and then not take them straight to fall-specific deals and information?

**  One QR code went to a non-mobile-friendly homepage.

How to Fix: Do not do this. Cut it out. Stop it.

If you don’t understand why I’m bossing you around, watch this by Scott Stratten (direct link to The Problem with QR Codes)

A person scanning a QR code is ON A MOBILE DEVICE by definition, so you need to set them down onto a mobile-friendly website.

**  One QR code went to a non-mobile-friendly page with a video that wouldn’t play on my phone.

How to Fix: Video is great. I love video. Yes, yes. But sometimes, technology is not cooperative. Do not send people to a video without making sure that it works! Don’t take some agency or ad salesperson’s word for it – test it yourself.

In sum, the QR code experience on this ad insert was (at a minimum) ineffective and in a few cases was a complete waste of time.

Is your organization paying for mediocrity?

Call me crazy, but here’s my advice – stop doing that.

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