Skype is launching a $12 million marketing campaign in the U.S. and the U.K. today, starting with an outdoor push that challenges consumers to think about the quality of their personal communications and introduces the line, "It's time for Skype."
The campaign, from Pereira & O' Dell in San Francisco, uses provocative lines to snipe at other technologies and social media. The include "When did it become OK to text Mum happy birthday?" and "140 characters doesn't equal staying in touch."
Francie Strong, Skype's director of global customer-base marketing, said, "The focus is on big, bold statements to grab people's attention and get them to think about how they communicate."
Ms. Strong said the U.S. and the U.K. were chosen because of their importance to Skype and the maturity of their customer base. If this phase goes well, the project may be adapted for other markets.
Microsoft bought Skype last year in an $8.5 billion deal that closed in October, but the company hasn't supported the property with the kind of dollars it has put into other Microsoft brands, such as Bing.
Ms. Strong joined Skype in October 2010 from Publicis Modem in San Francisco, where she was SVP-strategy and planning. At least two senior international executives, CMO Doug Bewsher and Global Director-Advertising Andy Sims, left the company just before the Microsoft deal was finalized.
Skype is aiming for a high profile in London, taking over two of the city's busiest subway stations and space on a fleet of buses for the campaign.
Pereira & O' Dell began working with Skype early this year and presented the campaign in their pitch, as agency research had discovered how infrequently people call family members and friends.
"It was depressing and inspiring," said Justin Cox, Pereira & O' Dell's senior strategic planner-mobile. "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."
A digital campaign will break April 19 with the same theme but, Mr. Cox said, "taking the provocative nature down a notch or two," and introducing more messages about specific features. Digital work will appear on about 17 sites covering lifestyle, news, business, entertainment, gossip and travel. They include CNN, BBC, Facebook, Lonely Planet, AOL, Yahoo, Wired, MSN, Mailonline, iVillage, CBS, and Hulu.
The overall project is intended to raise awareness of Skype beyond the video calls for which it is best known, according to Ms. Strong. "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," she said. "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."
The digital work will include pre-roll ads. Mr. Cox said the emphasis is on the idea of returning to communication by highlighting connected moments that people are likely to recognize from their own life.
The campaign's social-media component, budgeted at $2 million, will include the hashtag #timeforskype as part of a Twitter promotion focusing on premium products and reminding people that there's a different way to connect.