Like many innovations, I was at first misunderstood. Some called me ugly. Advertising executives laughed in my face. The bullying hurt, but I had a dream: for billions of end-users to capture me with their optical device. But I could not compute how to achieve this goal.
So I took the first job I could get, in mailrooms and factories. I made trillions of lossless calculations, never once complaining, as I do not understand suffering. At night, I learned kanji. I studied the careers of other barcodes. I set impossible goals.
Save lives, I wrote on my vision board.
Other technologies said I was crazy. That I was a mishmash of pixels with random embedded squares. Binary and boring, capable only of seeing the world in black and white. Still, I made progress. In the 2010s, I was incorporated in a few forward-thinking marketing campaigns. I coaxed users down the brand-consideration funnel toward purchase. I was sprayed with champagne inside the offices of start-ups such as Snapchat and Square.
When those parties ended, I studied my reflection in the camera lens. Yes, I had proven myself promising at brand activation. But could I activate our greatest asset? Personal brands—aka human life.
When the pandemic happened, I knew it was time.
Even then, success did not occur overnight. I wanted to be on the front lines, in hospitals, tracking medicines and patients. If I can deliver an immersive heritage story of Grady’s Cold Brew, imagine my additional capabilities! Doctors looked at me, befuddled.
One night at a Cracker Barrel, I studied some end-users from my perch on a Bud Light placard. They touched virus-ridden menus, then their chins, their phone, their noses, back to the menu, their free cornbread, and the menu again, in a chain of disease vectorization. That’s it! I can be a menu, and much more! I worked my hospitality-industry contacts, appearing in dive bars and Michelin-starred restaurants.
Cut to a year and change later. I am in the very environment that end-users want to be in, feasting, drinking, laughing with friends. Scanned daily, I exchange their personal information with servers, harvesting brand preferences. I love them for loving those brands. When they get home, I feed them sponsored posts. Not only has my work saved lives from never touching menus again, I am also driving brand equity.
I do not have to be an “if-then” statement. I can save brands and human life.
Now I am at museums, on tickets and underneath the art. You may have noticed me in the digital “vax pass.” Meanwhile, those advertising creatives are integrating me into a caffeinated seltzer campaign. I am not screaming schadenfreude, as I communicate at a subsonic level. But one must admit, the reversal of fortunes is delicious.