The fashion designer Calvin Klein is famous—or notorious—for advertising that pushes the limits of public taste with highly eroticized imagery. But, in terms of marketing effectiveness, the strategy has its limitations. Last year, the company raised eyebrows in the SoHo district of Manhattan with a five-story building poster depicting four young, semi-undressed models striking poses that struck some as orgiastic. The shock value was obvious, but, as with all media novelties, the shock eventually wore off. What to do for an encore in a jaded media market that Calvin Klein is largely responsible for jading in the first place? Another problem with outdoor advertising of this kind is that stating its measurable impact on the viewing public amounts to little more than guesswork. But all of that changed when Calvin Klein returned to the streets of Manhattan in an audacious, QR-code-based outdoor campaign engineered on the back end by The Ace Group of New York City. From July 9 through July 23, two busy Manhattan intersections were the places to be for anyone with a suitable mobile device and an itch to learn the meaning of the tantalizing phrase “Get It Uncensored” as a come-on from Calvin Klein. When they snapped the giant QR code on the building wrap at Houston and Lafayette Streets (the site of last year’s poster) or the billboard at 10th Avenue and 20th Streets, their curiosity was rewarded with a playback of this video, which brings figures like those in the original scene to writhing life. As they watched in their mobile browsers, dynamic marketing metric software developed by The Ace Group was telling the client exactly how many people were watching, where, and when—data that wouldn’t exist without The Ace Group’s marriage of QR code technology to the hard-copy medium of outdoor advertising. The numbers are still being crunched, but Val DiGiacinto, a partner and vice president-sales at The Ace Group, says that the measurable response “is way, way more than anyone expected. The campaign has now gone completely viral, and the hit rates are extremely high.” Even Bill O’Reilly has been infected—the Fox News commentator devoted part of a recent “Culture Warriors” segment to the campaign and its implications for public morality. (Editor’s note: advance the slider to 3:09 and, if you are not an O’Reilly fan, prepare to grit your teeth.) Established in 1970, The Ace Group is a former prepress service bureau that pioneered digital printing in New York City and now provides digital marketing solutions as well. Besides the 2D barcode glyphs and the tracking software, the company also designed the online landing page to which viewers were directed after capturing the QR codes. There, they could share the “Uncensored” content with others via links to Facebook and Twitter. DiGiacinto says that the QR codes on the signage could be captured from as far as block away, even with phone lines and other impedimenta in the picture. The Ace Group didn’t print either of the big signs—the outdoor advertising company that owns the space took care of that. But DiGiacinto’s firm could have done it, since its capabilities include indoor/outdoor printing on large-format inkjet equipment from Scitex. The campaign deployed smaller “wild postings” around New York City that took viewers to the “Uncensored” landing page. Residents of Los Angeles also could go there by pointing their mobile devices at a companion billboard on Sunset Boulevard. Related, QR-coded advertising appeared in about 20 publications. The big signs are gone now, but following this link makes it possible to replicate the “Uncensored” experience on the desktop. The campaign, says DiGiacinto, is the latest in a string of about 40 QR-code-based projects that The Ace Group has undertaken since first venturing into the technology two years ago. At this year’s NBA All-Star Game in February, for example, fans could snap a stylized QR code bearing the game’s logo on thousands of HDTV screens installed throughout Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Doing so generated a digital coupon that could be redeemed for a commemorative patch at an NBA-affiliated store in the stadium. The campaign lasted only for the duration of the game, about five hours. But the tracking software, says DiGiacinto, was on top of the action from the tip-off to the final buzzer, providing the client (the NBA) with a real-time stream of solid information about the fans’ engagement with the promotion. “Marketing metrics are the bane of marketing managers,” says DiGiacinto, when there are no reliable methods of gathering and reporting them. He believes, however, that trackable, QR-coded advertising is finally coming into its own in the U.S. as it has in other parts of the world. People don’t need to be told what they are or how to set up their mobile devices to handle them—they’re just ready to roam and snap away. The “Uncensored” campaign is helping to make the advantages as clear as the unblemished skin of a supermodel. Calvin Klein probably isn’t through with taking the pants off the comely young people who appear in its ads. The Ace Group is out to prove that with the help of QR codes, going public with edgy campaigns needn’t scare the pants off marketers.