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Ridiculous Ideas Never Die

About 8 years ago, a company called Digital Convergence Corporation had the idea to place bar codes in magazine ads. When you scanned the bar code using a CueCat, your browser would automagically go to a website where you could get additional information. This was welcomed with a huge yawn by people who realized that typing a url was actually less work than picking up the CueCat, pointing it at said bar code, getting it to read, and then waiting for the browser to respond. Honestly, how many people digest magazines when they’re sitting at the desktop anyway? If you could turn my toilet into a scanner/smart terminal, maybe I’d pass the occasional magazine in front of it.

To nobody’s surprise, Digital Convergence eventually failed and most thought the CueCat was lost to the annals of goofy technology history.

Apparently, however, there are still people who think this is a pretty neat idea – not the least of them is Microsoft.

Microsoft’s new multicolor bar code will enable the inclusion of more data in the code itself, as well as the ability for consumers to interact with it by scanning the code with webcams and, eventually, cell phones with color cameras.

Of course, Microsoft’s new bar code was developed to aid in anti-piracy efforts, not advertisers. That hasn’t stopped still other companies from trying to fill the CueCat void.

Enter MyClick

MyClick allows consumers to instantly access exciting promotional opportunities and discounts, and provide ROI feedback, simply by taking aim and shooting at special images on ads and products with their mobile device cameras.

That’s from an e-mail I received from MyClick earlier today. The message touts MyClick’s ultra-cool new offering. From their website, here’s how it works.

Visitors simply log onto with their mobile phones and download the MyClick software. Upon taking a photo of the MyClick framed Carnival logo at the MyClick game booth next to the Giant Wheel in the Carnival, attractive prizes including PS3, xBox, Vista gifts and Go Cart race cash coupons are just one click away.

Now I can hear you saying two things to yourself. First, “why would I want to go through that process just to get some goofy prize or a coupon?” Most of MyClick’s clients are advertisers like Lipton, Pepsi and Pizza Hut, and most of their efforts so far have been coupon delivery. They somehow have convinced themselves that I will install an application on my phone specifically to get MORE useless coupons delivered to me.

That brings me to your second question – “Isn’t this even worse than the CueCat example given that it’s just as difficult to install/use, but less useful ultimately because I could currently achieve the same thing with short codes and standard text messages?”

Well, yes, that’s right. First you have to download their app, then you have to take a picture of the add, then you have to wait for the image to be processed and get the response back. The MyClick folks should be commended for the fact that they took a really unappealing process (read magazine, grab goofy cat looking scanner, aim at magazine, wait for browser) and made it even more complicated.

Pizza Hut could just as easily have put a tag on their posters that said, “Send ‘High Five!’ to 55555 to get a coupon or win a prize.” It requires no download and very little time to complete.

All of this just goes to show that a really bad idea is still a really bad idea when applied to different platforms.

Written by Michael Turk