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.