TAG. (Are You It??)

Written on July 30, 2010

By the time you read this it will be old news. At this writing, however, I’m just beginning to see tags. Lots of them. I first encountered Microsoft® Tags when a client discovered them in Self magazine. “Check this out,” she said… “this is cool.” Thumbing through the pages, I found the content of the magazine littered with little multi-colored squares. Tags. Each little mosaic was captioned with instructions on how to download the free Microsoft app that enables you to use the tag with your smart phone. Hey, I was game. I sauntered virtually into the iPhone App Store and did the deed.

Try it out. This tag will take you to one of our UAB Women & Infants Center commercials on YouTube.

Here’s how it works: open the downloaded app (available for many smart phones – not just iPhones, by the way), target the tag, and, quicker than you can say, “Bill Gates is really Darth Vader,” your phone is magically transported to mobile, web-based content ostensibly relevant to the content in which the tag was embedded. I, for example, was instantaneously linked to a “superfoods shopping list” provided by the selfless editors of Self.” It was, as promised by my client – cool.

Tags, I have since learned, are known as 2D technology – basically 2-dimensional bar codes. The old zebra stripes of your granddaddy’s day apparently deliver info only one way. These use two dimensions. In truth, all tags are actually doing is offering you a quick and painless way to enter a URL into your immediate-information-device.

Think about this for a moment: anything printed can be linked simply to anything online with a single click.

Now, you don’t have to go from reading the Golf Digest article that says, “If you want to see Tiger demonstrate this radical new chipping technique visit www.blahblahblahSLASH###SLASH weirdsymbolSLASH### and painstakingly plug the monster URL into your browsing device… No, you simply hold your little addictive bit of technology right over the content, et voila! There’s Tiger, swinging away.

This is not new technology – but up to now, it hasn’t taken hold. And that – I suspect – is changing. Consider first that Microsoft is behind it. If any company can manufacture its own tipping point, Microsoft can. Next consider this partial list of publications that are or will be using tags to link their printed content to digital content as of this writing: Golf Digest, Self, TV Guide, Traditional Home, The Sacramento Book Review, Get Married, Lucky. And that’s not all. Taurus ads feature tags. Hardees is using tags to promote the Thickburger. Wheaties boxes sport tags. Real estate companies are tagging signs in front of homes. And the agency of yours truly has tagged ads for UAB Medicine. Bottom line: if you’re in any way involved in the world of printed media, and you’ve been paying attention, you’ve been wondering for a while what could actually help print continue to be relevant in our digital world of instant information.

Helloooo, Microsoft Tag. Are you it?