Many people driving by a billboard on First Avenue near Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids may wonder what’s up with the strange geometric design.
The answer is no mystery—instead it’s a bit of high tech marketing for phones.
Cedar Rapids realtor Debra Callahan put up the bar code-type pattern on the billboard that advertises her services. It may not mean much to many. But aim a smart phone equipped with the right software or “app”—and you can instantly download information about her to your phone.
Callahan said the bar code pattern is called a “Q-R” or quick response code. And it’s pretty hard to miss. Nearly half the space on the billboard near Lindale Mall is take up by the square pattern of lines and bars. Those who focus their smart phones at it and trigger the correct “scan” function will find it automatically takes them to the realtor’s web site.
But Callahan, a realtor with Skogman Realty, said please stop and get out of the car first.
“We’re not expecting people to drive by and put themselves in danger by scanning the billboard. What we want to communicate to people is we’re using this technology to market their homes,” she said.
If fact, Callahan said anyone with the proper smart phone can’t get the information unless they do stop. Scanning the billboard while driving won’t work because the application on the phone needs a few seconds to recognize the bar code.
Callahan said Q-R codes are showing up in magazine ads and other places as a way to market to those who want to use smart phones for literally everything in life. She believes she’s the first in the Cedar Rapids area to try it with real estate.
At the homes she now lists, the Q-R code is also prominent in the area where potential buyers can grab informational flyers. Scanning those codes on a smart phone will take the user directly to the web site for that particular home for sale. It’s also possible to take a virtual tour of the inside by scanning the Q-R code at individual homes.
Still, Callahan admits all this is so new it takes some explaining. In fact, the billboard company, at first, questioned her artistic design because they thought it was too big for the billboard.
“They did not even know what it was,” Callahan said. “I had to explain what purpose it was serving.”As an “early adopter” of this particular technology, Callahan isn’t sure how much new business she’s getting from her billboard bar code. But as more people find new uses for smart phones, she wants to be riding that technology wave ahead of the crowd.