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Skype Smacks Twitter, Facebook In New Campaign

The online communication service launches its first international campaign, driving home the dehumanizing effects of its non-televisual competition.

Conversations don’t sound like they used to anymore, probably because all too often you can’t hear them. A series of emoticon-riddled text messages or email exchanges technically qualifies as a conversation, but both lack the immediacy of a proper talk, and the visual cues that inform responses. These conversational hallmarks are what give Skype an advantage in remote communication, and for the first time, the company is playing the human touch card in a major ad campaign.

This week, Microsoft-owned Skype and agency Pereira & O’Dell launched a multi-channel, international branding campaign called "It’s Time for Skype." The first phase begins in London with a series of outdoor print ads featuring pithy taglines that go on the offensive against Twitter, Facebook, and tools that help people speak without speaking.

Since heavy business travelers are a key demographic of potential Skype users, the ads went up in places like bus terminals, train stations, and Heathrow airport. Apart from the outdoor ads, though, Skype will also be rolling out an online campaign over the next few months, with targeted banner ads and an application on Skype’s Facebook page for creating "Humoticons"—pictures of one’s actual smiley and/or frowny face to use in place of emoticons. This last bit is a sly commentary on the redundancy of emoticons in actual conversation.

"We’ve become so reliant on technology to connect us in various ways that we now expect more from technology and social media and less of each other as people," says Justin Cox, Senior Strategic Planner at Pereira & O’Dell. "We edit and 'delete’ ourselves. We bring social networking into the boardroom and email to the dinner table. We favor frequency of communication over depth of conversation. Suddenly we find ourselves at a point where communication is easier than ever, but far less human." Enter Skype. "The brand has always been focused on enriching connections between people, but for the first time Skype is using consumer marketing to remind people there is an alternative to the impersonal way we find ourselves communicating with one another."

Browse through some of the London outdoor ads in the gallery above.

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  • Bob Jacobson

    It would have been nice for Skype's then-design team to have been so human when they foisted horrible new interfaces on their users about a year ago.  The interfaces resemble children's books in their vast buttons, illogical use of visual and screen space, and an iconography that is just plain idiotic.  

    For Mac users who had grown used to Skype's truly revolutionary Skype 2.8 interface -- a work of absolute interaction-design genius -- Skype 5.0 is an obscenity.  Multi-user videoconferencing is bizarre, to say the least, as real-time portraits of the users (or blank heads if they're not using video) jump all over the smartphone-proportioned screen as first one, then another user tries to speak.  Instead of developing new features necessary to multi-conferencing, like traffic signaling and synched, shareable whiteboards, Skype's developers simply ladled bright colors on a black background.  Ugly beyond belief.Not to mention that the tech resources behind this "interface" is obviously inadequate to the increased use that Skype's partnering and marketing have engendered -- resulting in dropped calls galore and line noise.  I don't remember one time that Skype's executives, designers, or developers used their own medium to humanize the process of forcing this garbage on unhappy business users (some of whom, like me, spend upwards of $1,000 a year on Skype services) or casual users.  They just dumped it on us and when tens of thousands of complaints starting flooding the forums, including their own, they closed those forums they could either directly or through leaning on publishers.  How 'bout Skype Smacking Skype sometime?  Oh, I forgot:  now it's MICROSOFT Skype.  That explains it all.

    I'm ready to jump to Cisco Jabber when it's ready, or perhaps directly to a Blue Jeans Network implementation or Connexus.  Skype is killing itself.

  • Bob Jacobson

    PS I would use Apple iChat more except that its developers gave Apple users essentially the same treatment that Skype developers gave Skype users, with the same results: weird commands, lots of time to establish connections, and arbitrary management of a conversation.  Still a toy, though at least the graphical treatment looks intentional.

  • Jonboy

    I've always considered Microsoft a marketing company, first and foremost. Well, I wouldn't hire them to do much of anything now. I completely agree with Robjday. trying to grow oranges on apple trees (again), and while they make a valid point, and will more than likely strike a nerve, it seems the inevitable quandary of time and volume will lead consumers right back to the mediums that do it best. Unfortunately for Microsoft, Skype isn't it.

  • robjday

    Ahhhh the inevitable first sign that Microsoft has purchased a company.  They throw a bunch of money at an ad campaign that just misses the mark because they don't understand.  Twitter is media outlet for one to many communication and sharing.  Skype is one to one.  I'd like to comment on Facebok too, but I have no idea what the hell they are all about these days :)