“Snappy” ads in Men’s Health

menshealthIn Japan, using your cameraphone to engage with advertising is old hat. They have been placing quick response codes (QR) in their out-of-home and print pieces for a few years now–which are basically barcode-looking things that can hold a ton of information. (Have a look here to see one in action).

But the U.S. is now in a position to potentially leapfrog this technology altogether, and go straight to snapping a shot of the very thing you want to know more about.

Men’s Health is doing exactly that this month.

In the current July / August issue, every ad is cameraphone ready: Simply snap a picture of the ad you’re interested in, send it in to “[email protected]” via MMS (multimedia messaging service), and you’ll get a promotional bounce-back text message with a predetermined call-to-action, set by the advertiser.

The campaign is powered by SnapTell’s “Snap.Send.Get” technology, which lets marketers run original creative without having to insert barcodes or other marks. Once the picture is sent in by the user, it gets matched against a database stored with pre-programmed responses–anything ranging from coupons, pricing into, ringtones, wallpaper, games, contest entries, product samples, web links, photos, videos, and so on.

The technology is compatible with all cameraphones, and does not require special software for downloading advertiser images; it’s completely an opt-in solution for the reader, and each MMS message enters users into a drawing to win a grand prize all-expenses-paid round trip to Puerto Rico. Plus three runners-up will get iPhones. (There’s probably never been a better reason to look at a deodorant ad).

“As technology continues to proliferate our everyday lives and devices become more advanced, we are always looking for innovative ways to stay competitive in the industry,” said Jack Essig, VP / Publisher of Men’s Health, the largest men’s lifestyle brand in the world. “We felt SnapTell’s image recognition technology was a perfect fit: easy and appealing to our readers, yet compelling and novel to our [advertising] customers.”

Some of the nearly 100 advertisers participating in the issue include AT&T, Anheuser-Busch, Honda Motors, Louis Vuitton, Quaker Oats, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever USA.

Almost two-thirds of all U.S. mobile subscribers have cameraphones–and the mélange of dog and child wallpapers show we certainly love using them–so the reach and the behavior are there. What this means for your print, out-of-home, radio, and even broadcast campaigns, then, is that it’s time to start thinking about how you can layer in mobile as an engagement tool.

Nobody’s saying you abandon your URL call-to-action. But if a potential customer is sitting in a doctor’s office with a magazine, odds are they’re going to forget your ad the second they get called in for that tetanus shot. But if there’s a mechanism to immediately opt-in via mobile, especially in a fun and engaging way, then you’ve captured a qualified lead–while they’re out in the world.

That’s worth more than a thousand words.