Column: Twitter bashing doesn't hide Skype's own limitations

If the success of an ad campaign is judged by the amount of coverage it gets, then the latest from Skype is turning out to be a bit of a winner, says Billy MacInnes.

Skype iPhone.jpgIf the success of an ad campaign is judged by the amount of coverage it gets, then the latest from Skype is turning out to be a bit of a winner, says Billy MacInnes. 

For those of you who haven't seen it, the $12m campaign in the US and UK, which kicked off on 3 April, takes aim at the likes of Twitter and Facebook by seeking to highlight the limitations of social media.

"When did it become OK to text Mum happy birthday?" asks one of the posters. Others in the series include "140 characters doesn't equal staying in touch" and "When did LOL replace the sound of laughter?"

Describing the campaign to Ad Age, Skype's director of global customer-base marketing, Francie Strong, said the focus was on "big, bold statements to grab people's attention and get them to think about how they communicate".

Justin Cox, senior strategic planner at the San Francisco-based ad agency which created the campaign, Pereira & O'Dell, claimed it was "more than just a marketing message with provocative headlines - our message is to help people truly connect in a genuine way".

While no one can deny the validity of Skype's argument in terms of the face-to-face experience it offers through video calls compared to Facebook and Twitter, the big imponderable is whether it's actually as significant to people as Skype suggests. Yes, there are many people who use Skype to keep in touch with family and friends but, equally, there are also those who use Facebook. There are even people who do both. Some of them might use Twitter too. Some of them might not even use Skype.

Also, in terms of the messaging of the ads, there are some that don't necessarily make sense. For instance, I don't believe many people really think "140 characters" equals staying in touch.

One of the other ads states "Humans were made to look, listen and feel" but that's something you could also use to point to the limitations of Skype because whatever the merits of video calls, they're not like being in the same room as another human being.

The same goes for "Your one-way ticket back to humanity" because it's not quite, not really. If you really want a one-way ticket to humanity, you need to buy a ticket and visit that person.

I can understand why some people in the advertising and IT industries might be getting "all a Twitter" about the campaign, but in the great scheme of things, it's not really that big a deal. In the end, it's about one company that makes money out of people using computers to talk to friends and relatives poking fun at two other companies that make money out of getting people to use computers to communicate with each other. Whatever claims Skype might make, the one thing they all have in common is computers and no matter how it might try to dress it up, there's always a screen instead of a person.

Image courtesy: Skype

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