Why IMD? Testing an advert in The Economist

IMD, provider of executive education programs, ran an advert in the printed version of The Economist. The advert encouraged you to download a special app to your mobile in order to decode the advert and view a video

advert from the Economist with a close up of the instructions

I thought I’d have a bit of fun and make a video of myself following the instructions in the advert. My initial reaction when I saw the ad was: this is a very long winded way of getting readers to view a promotional video. My video clip is 9 minutes long, and apart from some chat at the beginning, it took pretty much that long to get to IMD’s video clip.

Many people are complaining about QR codes being pointless. When implemented correctly and in a context where it helps, they can add value. Unfortunately time after time they are badly implemented and just become an obstacle.

This “see the page come alive” stunt by IMD is worse than a poorly implemented QR code. I say it is worse as you need to use a specific app for this specific ad. a 14MB monster of an app that requires (at least on Android) a whole load of permissions well beyond what it needs for its simple functionality.

When running campaigns that involve scanning or “reading” content, then you should always print a (simple to type) URL in the ad. This makes the content accessible to the reader/viewer even if, for whatever reason, scanning isn’t possible or doesn’t work.

Perhaps I’m being mean, and under-estimating the time and enthusiasm for such gimmicks that Economist readers interested in executive education programs have. Judging by the 10-50 downloads on the app’s page in Google Play, I’ve got a feeling I’m not under-estimating at all.

What do you think? Money well spent, or ill conceived gimmick?

James Royal-Lawson - Senior digital advisor · Designer · Digital analyst · Economist · Podcaster