How To Use QR Codes in DTC Advertising

By Ankeet Shah, VP of IT

A person taking a picture of a QR code with their smartphone

The acceptance and use of QR codes is officially here.  The Coinbase QR-enabled Super Bowl ad was so successful that it crashed their site with over 20 million hits in one minute!  Their app catapulted in popularity, going from 186th to 2nd on Apple’s App Store.


QR codes are user-friendly, easy to set up, and scalable. They can bridge various online and offline channels (e.g., driving traffic from a direct mail piece to a website) and track conversions at a granular level to improve attribution.


Below you learn what QR codes are, how to incorporate them into direct response campaigns and DTC TV advertising, and how to analyze the results to generate accurate and timely insights.

What Are QR Codes and How Do They Work?

A QR code—short for quick response code—is a scannable pattern that can be read by a cell phone or mobile device to communicate various forms of information. These include website URLs, account information, phone numbers, coupon codes, and more. Users can scan QR codes with a native smartphone camera or a free QR code reader app.


According to Forbes, QR codes’ ease of use and the rising demand for touchless commerce during the pandemic have increased their adoption in every area of daily life. They’re used for form submissions, restaurant menus, cross-platform log-ins, electronic payments, subscription services, logistics, and more to deliver seamless customer experiences.

QR Code Use Cases in Direct Response Marketing

QR codes engage consumers by adding interaction and breathing new life into direct response marketing campaigns. Examples of how to incorporate QR codes:

  • Place a QR code next to each product in a print ad featuring multiple items to take the customer directly to the product page to place an order.
  • Include a QR code in direct response marketing materials, which customers can scan to download a coupon. With this approach, businesses can attract more foot traffic and track response rates accurately.
  • Put a QR code on a direct mail piece to promote an event. Recipients can scan the QR code and add the event to their calendars right away.
  • Use a custom QR code that’ll open Google Maps, pinpoint a store location, and show the customer how to get there to drive more foot traffic.
  • Allow customers to scan a QR code to start a call to offer better support and streamline the customer experience.


Brands can also bridge the online and offline experience by using QR codes for retargeting. Once a user scans the QR code, the coupon codes can be stored in Google Wallet/Apple Pay and allow for retargeting. They’ll start seeing a retargeting ad (e.g., on Google and Facebook) so brands can bring the interaction online and continue the conversation.

Leveraging QR Codes in DTC TV Advertising

QR codes on TV ads are also becoming more common. Examples of how companies are using them to engage customers and enhance the shopping experience:

  • Allow viewers to go directly to the product or promo page whenever convenient for them to minimize potential loss of traffic (e.g., to search engines) and reduce friction along the conversion path.
  • Create unique QR codes to improve attribution, track campaign effectiveness, and increase analytics accuracy.
  • Engage consumers, add interactivity, and facilitate the buying journey by sending viewers to videos, offers, product information, and more.
  • Encourage viewers to scan a QR code and follow the brand’s social media accounts to improve brand awareness, build community, and increase engagement.
  • Have more flexibility to use complex URLs with appropriate tagging to track traffic since users don’t have to type in the website address.


When brands use a QR solution to generate a dynamic QR code, they can make changes behind the scene and direct viewers to different content. For example, this feature can support a limited-time promotion with a built-in end date, after which the code automatically de-activates. It facilitates instant visits to the target page, avoids potential traffic loss to search engines, and provides better opportunities for time-based attribution and reporting. Additionally, marketers can use longer or more complex URLs since the viewer won’t need to write down the information and access a website later.

Incorporating QR Codes into Ad Campaigns

There are different ways to incorporate QR codes into print or TV ads.


Brands can use a QR generator tool to create a code that links to a website URL, PDF, audio file, app store listing, email, and others. For companies that work with an ad agency, they can manage your QR codes as part of your campaign for seamless execution and reporting. You can also use third-party services that will manage QR codes for you.


To incorporate QR codes into TV commercials, brands and agencies can work with dub houses by providing them with the necessary file to insert the image into the ad creative. Besides a basic QR code, brands can get creative with the presentation (e.g., incorporate different colors, images, and shapes) to draw attention and increase engagement.

Analyzing QR Code Results

QR codes are a great way to attribute traffic sources and track conversions. Here are a few things to keep in mind to maximize success:

  1. When working with an agency, define who is tracking the results and capturing the data to isolate and report sales effectively. Identify potential delays in the reporting process based on who supplies the code and how the tracking is set up. Close communication and coordination with the agency can help minimize errors and misinterpretations.
  2. Most QR code services provide a metro location for where a code is scanned. The additional information can help you understand the localized performance of an ad and the level of QR code adoption in specific areas to inform future campaigns.


Like tracking any campaigns, brands should identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to help focus on relevant metrics.

Tap Into the Power of QR Codes in Direct Response Advertising

There are many creative ways to leverage QR codes in marketing campaigns to build brand awareness, drive traffic, facilitate the buying journey, and increase conversion rates.


Working closely with DTC marketing experts in this area can help brands incorporate QR codes into their latest strategies to make direct response ads more engaging and interactive. From campaign development and creative production to data science and analytics, brands need to dial in every piece of the puzzle. With the right expertise in their corner, companies can navigate today’s complex media environment and gain all the benefits QR codes have to offer.