Launching With a Tease

July 28th, 2010

Calvin Klein has a reputation of pushing it in their advertising and so I’m always curious to follow them to see what they are up to. A couple weeks ago Calvin Klein replaced some of its billboards (in NY and LA), not with controversial or racy imagery, but with a giant QR code with the tease to “Get it Uncensored”.

Although widely used in Europe and Japan, QR codes are still somewhat of a novelty here in the US. However, as smartphone penetration increases, it’s becoming more and more common to see QR codes appear in ads, on packaging and used in general promotions. We’ve played with these a bit here at Bozell, but since most U.S. citizens still do not own smartphones, and even those that do don’t necessarily know what a QR code is or have the necessary scanning software to read it meant pretty limited exposure. However analysts predict that smartphone penetration will match feature phones by this time next year, so the picture could change drastically.

Since I live in neither NY nor LA I obviously didn’t have the opportunity to scan the CK QR code myself to see what happened (although I tried from online images but couldn’t get it to work). When I finally saw the exclusive, 40-second commercial (below) that the QR code brings up featuring Lara Stone, I was disappointed. I guess I expected something way more provocative given CK’s history. Seems like a missed opportunity to me. From what I understand, it’s a test for CK, but marks the official premiere of Calvin Klein Jeans’s Fall 2010 advertising campaign. At the conclusion of the video, viewers can then share the code with their Facebook and Twitter networks.


  1. Kara Cordell says:

    There was a QR code in the Pottery Barn catalog I got the other night. It linked to a video about how a particular chair was made. I checked it out for curiosity’s sake, but was disappointed in the end as well.

  2. Kim Mickelsen says:

    It needs to be pretty good in the way of pay off to make us feel it’s worth the effort. Disappointment isn’t the response these should generate. But maybe we have a higher standard than the general consumer because we are in the biz. We could have made it kick ass. :)

  3. John Parsons says:

    Thanks, Kim. The CK campaign got a lot of busy New Yorkers to stop and scan, but many were frustrated at the minutes-long download and the lack of anything resembling engagement. QR Codes and mobile campaigns should be more than portable MTV.

    Creating and printing a QR Code (or any other type of 2D tag) is only the beginning. If the Web landing page is not optimized for mobile devices, or if the overall mobile experience is not an engaging one, then you’ll only end up frustrating potential customers. Check out Warbasse Design ( for some really good examples of how the print-to-mobile (or even TV-to-mobile) experience can benefit a marketing campaign.

  4. Nice examples. Thanks John. I completely agree that the tag is just the beginning and that they experience needs to be rich, engaging and worthwhile or consumers will ignore them.