If you’ve watched more than a few minutes of ITV’s weekday breakfast news programme, Good Morning Britain, you’ll almost certainly have spotted a competition segment – probably with Andi Peters.
For years we’ve been familiar with the premium rate text codes and phone numbers, the paid online entry processed by PayPal, and the slightly more cumbersome (but much cheaper) postal entry that will cost you a stamp.
More recently, GMB competitions have featured a QR code as a quicker way to reach the competition entry form.
Why Do ITV Use QR Codes?
The message from ITV is that it’s a quicker way to enter, which for the younger generation who are very familiar with scanning these codes is almost certainly true, but for many, are a strange patterned square that might be a bit of a mystery.
As you can see in the picture above, they’re useless to the naked eye, but scanning them with your phones camera reveals the data that the code contains – in this case a shortcut to the entry form on the ITV website by automatically filling the web address in on your mobile browser.
When you scan them on your phone with the mobile camera, you’ll see the URL (that’s the web address recognised, which you can click on to visit the site:
Am I Tracked By ITV Competition QR Codes?
If you watch the trailer with presenters like Andi Peters, you’ll notice that they direct you to the website URL itv.com/win to see all the current competitions, which is a normal way to visit a website.
On the other hand, if you access the same page by a QR code, you’ll see on your mobile screen something like the above screenshot, which just tells you you’re heading for ITV. If you actually click through using this method, you’re likely to appear to land on the same page as just typing itv.com/win into the address bar of your browser, but a quick check of the address bar will show something like the following:
The extra details on the end are known as UTM Codes, and used to track visitors on the web, commonly through things like Google’s Analytics software. In itself, that’s very common – in fact we use it here at entercompetitionsonline.co.uk.
What’s different in this case, is you’ve been tracked using the information that ITV have encoded into the QR code.
Let’s be clear, the information in the address above is far from the most intrusive tracking that you’ll find on the web, but it does tell ITV more about you than you might realise.
For example, there is a clear indicator that you’ve seen the competition trailer on GMB while it’s been shown on TV. This helps them understand the impact of how well the segments are performing on the TV, compared to people who just regularly check the competitions on their website.
In addition, you’re unlikely to notice the tracking information at all, which is why it’s such a great tool for advertisers on the web. It means that in future, it’s possible that a different QR code could be used each time a competition runs, to help advertisers target you better online and potentially elsewhere too. That might be a little paranoid, but it’s certainly possible, so is it an extra bit of information about ourselves we need to risk giving to advertising companies for free?
Why Are QR Codes Only Used On GMB?
So far, QR codes are only used for competitions on GMB on the ITV weekday daytime shows, because in Scotland, STV is the equivalent channel and UTV in Northern Ireland.
While England and Wales carry ITV, the English and Welsh viewers use itv.com, whereas Scottish viewers have the stv.tv website. That’s why you’ll often see something along the lines of ‘visit itv.com or stv.tv to enter‘ on shows shown in Scotland as well as elsewhere in the UK
The other common ITV daytime shows carry competitions, but are also shown in Scotland, so for all year round shows like Lorraine, This Morning and Loose Women, a single QR code wouldn’t work as easily. The same goes for other programmes like the Dickinson’s Real Deal and Tipping Point competitions.
Should I Use The QR Code?
If you’re happy with the extra tracking involved in using the QR Codes, and find them quicker than using your mobile browser, then that’s up to you.
Personally, I try to avoid tracking wherever possible because it’s already everywhere with the ads we see on the web, so I don’t want any more. For me, I find accessing the ITV website easy enough already, so just visiting the site on my mobile as I would do with any other website works for me.