Google Tests New Barcode Tech in Newspaper Ad Program

ClickZ By Kate Kaye, The ClickZ Network,

Google is testing an emerging barcode technology in its print ad program, along with several other response options aimed at tracking results of newspaper ads placed through the system. Though newspapers may be making less for ads sold through Google Print Ads than they might selling those placements direct, advertisers that wouldn’t be buying paper ads otherwise are testing them.

Health insurance comparison site eHealth gave up on newspaper print ads in 2003. “Frankly we stopped doing it because we found other channels more effective and efficient for us,” said Bruce Telkamp, the company’s EVP business operations. Because the company works with insurance carriers across the country, “We needed a platform that allowed us to participate and buy media from many different newspapers,” said Telkamp. “Health insurance is a very, very local product.” Like many other Web firms advertising locally, eHealth had placed more ad dollars in paid search, online display advertising, and affiliate marketing in hopes of driving traffic to its site.

Cost is a big factor for ROI-driven advertisers like eHealth. In addition to reducing ad planning and placement time, Telkamp said a test of the print system last year resulted in prices far lower than amounts paid for similar print newspaper ads several years ago.

After spending about $500,000 in 2007 to test Google’s print offering, eHealth has begun experimenting with new response methods the search firm has introduced. Among those is a 2D barcode technology so cutting-edge, it’s unlikely to get much play here in the U.S. anytime soon. In Google’s case, the QR or “Quick Response” code technology connects its newspaper print ads to mobile Web sites. Mobile devices with the appropriate software scan the codes which link to specific mobile site URLs. News Corp. has used the technology for ads in its U.K. tabloid newspaper The Sun.

“We recognize this is a technology that is probably a year to 18 months out,” said Spencer Spinnell, head of sales strategy for Google Print Ads, referring to the QR codes.

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