ESPN Magazine isn't the first pub to push QR codes but its April 4, 2011 issue, provided some good learnings to share on what you should and shouldn't do. First let's get the biggest mishap out of the way -  ESPN used Microsoft Tags on all its editorial content and even included instructions for readers on how to download (a nice touch). Here's the bad part...they   forgot to tell their advertisers they were going the Microsoft Tag route.

While Microsoft Tags are great in the sense they provide analytics to the company using them, they aren't universal -you have to download a specific Microsoft Tag app and a lot of other popular scanning apps don't read Microsoft Tags. So while readers went through the steps to download an app for the editorial content, this app was not able to access all the advertisers' QR codes which did not use Microsoft Tags.

I could hear the ad guys selling in the idea to their customers and completely failing to mention that the tag reader instructions were going to be for Microsoft Tags only. The experience would have been much smoother if  I could have used the same app on all pages. I don't blame the ad guys entirely, but it does show that there really wasn't an understanding of how the technology works.

Putting tag types aside there were some winners and opportunities to improve when it came to QR Code use.

Winners:

- Mountain Dew: Mountain Dew's ad led to a mobile optimized site and there was a clear call to action to vote for a new flavor. In other words, I knew exactly why I was scanning and the user experience was easy and attractive. #winning

- Discovery's Deadliest Catch: Clear call to action - "scan for exclusive videos" - great mobile optimized site with a ton to do and explore.

- ESPN: There was also a clear call to action on why I should scan and the information was useful. I wished they would mixed up the video content or at least changed the interview setting...it was a wee bit bland. But props to ESPN for also tying in a sweeps to the scans to get you to scan each and every code. More you scanned the better your chance was of taking home the XBox.

- NO2 Red (Muscle Enhancement): I've never seen this product before but they did a great job of driving trial with readers by leading them to a mobile optimized website where they offered up a coupon and more info. They also offered a text option within the ad for those who didn't have a smart phone.

Room to Improve:

- Lexus CT: No clear call to action on why I should scan, and when I did it lead me to downloadable music clips from new bands. Kind of odd because their whole message was one of being green. There was a disconnect for me.

-Hankook Tires: Timing is everything. When I scanned to enter to win a Ford Explorer I received a message that the sweeps hadn't started. I suppose they didn't take into account subscribers get the publication prior to April 4. Another communication gap between client and ad team.

Ads I Wish Had a QR Code but Didn't

- Belvedere and Absolut: A recipe would have been nice.

- GEICO Caveman Guy: A funny video or access to the GEICO app where they have games and downloads would have been good, especially because it is already built

-Old Spice: Who doesn't want to see more of the Old Spice man? The brand had an interesting behind the scenes video of the making of their commercial that would have been cool to tie in.

- History Channel's Swamp People: This show fascinates me and I would have loved video clips of some gator wrestling. A miss especially when you saw what Discovery Channel did.

- Mobile Companies - I don't really know if I wanted to see content from HTC and AT&T but I did feel they should have been leading the QR charge, being mobile and all.

That's my take. Anyone else have scanning fun with the issue?