On Monday, Skype kicked off a new $12 million dollar ad campaign in the United States and United Kingdom which knocks Twitter and Facebook as methods of communication, touting Skype as a far better alternative. “140 characters doesn’t equal staying in touch” is one of the lines that the campaign will use to outline the differences between Skype and the two major social networks.
And, starting April 19th, a less provocative digital ad campaign will launch across 17 sites including CNN, BBC, Facebook, Lonely Planet, AOL, Yahoo, Wired, MSN, Mailonline, iVillage, CBS, and Hulu.
“A lot of people have great stories to tell about using Skype with friends and family, but they often see us as a one-dimensional product,” said Francie Strong, a Skype marketing director. “We’re proud of our video calls, but we also want them to know about our other products: screen-sharing, group video, file transfer, instant messaging, calls to mobile and landlines. The combination of features allows a more natural conversation.”
I’ve always been curious about how normal people use Skype. I think that describing it as a one-dimensional product is quite fitting; Skype is often used just for talking to family and friends who are far away occasionally, and this is what it’s notorious for. So, in that sense, spreading the word about some of Skype’s other features definitely sounds like a good idea. But is this the right way to go about it?
The campaign is admittedly provocative, with Strong stating that “The focus is on big, bold statements to grab people’s attention and get them to think about how they communicate.” Justin Cox of Pereira & O’Dell — the agency which has developed this campaign for Skype — did note that this is more than just a provocative, attention-grabbing campaign:
“It was depressing and inspiring. It’s rare that a campaign gives you the opportunity to address very relevant, timely cultural issues. Skype isn’t solving the world’s problems, but it has a point of view. This is more than just a marketing message with provocative headlines — our message is to help people truly connect in a genuine way.”
Recently, I’ve been mulling over how most people use Skype. I consider myself a heavy user of everything but video calls; I use Skype very heavily for voice calls,, and, consequently, its instant messaging and file transfer functionality (to share links and other content with the entire group in the call). I also occasionally use screen-sharing and mobile/landline calling (I have a subscription). Most of the group voice calls are several hours long (and yes, they’re largely productive.)
So, as someone who uses Skype like that, it’s hard to imagine that some only use the service very lightly. As for the campaign? In terms of pointing out the communication benefits of making a Skype call over text communication via Facebook and Twitter, then sure, it’s a great campaign. But it shouldn’t come off as an attack; Skype is fundamentally different from Facebook and Twitter, and the marketing team needs to portray this without coming off as suggesting that Skype should be used instead of other services.
Of course, this isn’t the intended message from the marketing department, but some may wrongly infer this from the provocative taglines.