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How to incorporate QR codes in your OOH creative to maximise engagement in your Augmented Reality campaign

At Darabase, most of our Augmented Reality experiences begin when a user scans a QR code, often on some Out of Home (OOH) or Digital out of Home (DOOH) collateral.

QR codes have some unique advantages in that, because they can now be read by the native camera applications on most smartphones, the user can simply point their phone camera at a QR code and be automatically redirected to the browser with the webAR experience hosted on it.

There has certainly been an increase in QR code usage across the world since the pandemic began. According to a 2020 poll carried out by MobileIron 72% of respondents have scanned a QR code in the last month.

From the science of how big a QR code needs to be to how to think outside (the black and white) box in terms of design, here are our top tips for incorporating a QR code into OOH creative to maximise user engagement in the campaign.

Size of the QR code

Scanning distances is a complex subject and depends on a number of factors including the quality and resolution of the smartphone camera, how bright the day/night is, whether the target image is front lit or back lit, whether it’s a moving image and weather conditions.

Additionally distance can be altered “digitally” as the user can often “zoom in” when using the camera function. As long as a non-blurry image can be created for a sufficient length of time, the scan is still possible. QR scanning is a very fast process because of its computational nature and therefore will often scan despite a lack of a perceived steady image. Perhaps the biggest factor here is how shaky the hand holding the camera is.

All other things being equal, the angle of the camera to the code also has an impact, since from an offset viewpoint the QR code is effectively skewed by perspective. This is equally true if the viewer is looking upwards towards the target as opposed to it being at eye level.

Ultimately however, the further away the target QR code is from the user the larger it will need to be. As a rule of thumb a QR code should have a ratio of 1:10 with the distance for a native camera. However with a 10x zoom on a 2017 iPhone 8 smartphone camera this will be 1:50 or more.

Our recommended minimum sizing is based on good lighting conditions:

Media Size Scannable distance without zoom Recommended QR code size including quiet zone
1.2m x 1.8m – e.g. 6 sheet up to 2m 25 x 25 cm
4m x 3m – e.g. Digital Billboard up to 5m 60 x 60 cm
8m x 4m – e.g. Digital Large Format up to 10m 120 x 120 cm
Smaller codes can be used but the viewer would need to move closer or zoom in on their camera to ensure an accurate scan. Codes should be larger if viewed at an angle e.g. where elevated above the viewer.

Based on the average smartphone camera viewed through a web browser, the following data gives a guide for the viewable real world area on-screen at different distances from the position where an immersive experience is placed.  N.B. most users will hold their phone in portrait mode, meaning, for example, that the width of an immersive video screen is best scaled to “h” rather than “w”.

Distance from mobile to AR content (d) Average width of viewable area (w) Average height of viewable area (h)
2m 2.5m 1.5m
5m 6.25m 3.75m
10m 12.5m 7.5m

QR code design best practices

While QR codes can be branded and customised, there are a number of best practices that ensure a high level of recognition, usage and robustness when it comes to scannability.

Add instructions and hint at the payoff

While Covid has taught the populations of many countries what QR codes are and what to do with them, it is always advisable to explain both that they need to be scanned and what the benefit of doing so is. The incentive for scanning should be clear or fewer people will do it. The bigger the incentive, the higher the scan rate. 

QR code Sharpness 

It is important to use a high quality image of the QR code in the print. The sharpness of the final image directly affects the ability of the camera to recognise and scan the code. It also affects the distance from which the code can be recognised and scanned.

QR code Contrast

Always try and use high contrasting colours in your design. QR code scan-ability is directly affected by contrast. Black on white is ideal but other options are possible and may be better suited to different lighting conditions. 

Framing and the “quiet zone”

For maximum scanning success, QR codes need to be surrounded by a “quiet zone” of approximately 15% of the QR code dimension on each side . This is an empty area around the sides of the codes that help the camera recognise the code itself. Without this, the code may not be recognised and the scan may not be completed. 

Thinking outside the (black and white) box

Finally, engaging QR code placement can make a world of difference in an AR campaign. We would always recommend thinking about how QR codes can be incorporated into a campaign creatively to stand out to the audience. 

WebAR Solutions

At Darabase we augment existing outdoor media screens and billboards with world-scale AR content. Contact us if you have any more questions about QR codes or to find out how we can help you bring your marketing to life with Augmented Reality.

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