Mobile Bar code Technology in Television Commercials


A screenshot One of Bluefly’s “Closet Confessions” commercials, featuring Bethenny Frankel of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” with scannable information about things for sale on Bluefly. Image courtesy of the New York Times.

By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
September 30, 2010 - MMH Editorial

First, this is a workplace appropriate blog with nothing remotely to do with the sexual orientation of bar codes.

I don’t know about you, but I get a kick when my professional life intersects with my personal life. I work at home and check out CNBC and cable news during lunch. Today, as I was rummaging through the fridge for something to eat, on comes a UPS commercial with someone singing about the joys of logistics to the tune of That’s Amore. My wife will tell you that I could’ve written those lyrics.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and I just clicked on the New York Times after editing a story on multi-modal data collection by Sara Specter that will appear in our October issue. A headline caught my eye: Bar Codes Add Detail on Items in TV Ads”>Bar Codes Add Detail on Items in TV Ads. The technology is supplied by Scanbuy.

I’ll bite. According to Elizabeth Olson, the reporter, bar codes are popping up on the Bravo cable station in television ads created by online retailer Bluefly. The 45-second ads show “snippets” of interviews with fashion designers and fashionable celebrities.

If you happen to point a cell phone equipped with a scanner at the on-screen bar code, you’ll be linked to specially-created “Closet Confessions,” five-minute long episodes that feature interviews with fashion designers and celebrities who take the viewer on a tour of their closets. You’ll also be offered a $30 discount on a $150 purchase at

The Times says the bar codes use a traditional “quick response” bar code to connect a viewer to a website or video from the advertiser.

As far as I know, I don’t have a bar code reader on my BlackBerry. If I did, I’m not sure if I want to start scanning my television to check out Nicky Hilton’s closet. Some doors should just be left closed. But, a Bluefly executive tells the Times that “Closet Confession” fans have increased the size of their shopping orders by 50% since the bar codes started running.

As a supply chain guy, I have just one word of warning to Bluefly: We all know that bar codes are pretty reliable, but they occasionally misread. I hate to think of what might show up on my phone with the wrong scan.

From more information on Bar Code systems, check-out Modern’s Critical Topics page on Mobility: Mobile and Wireless Systems

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484 or email [email protected].


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