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Skype rolls into London in $12million campaign; has a go at Twitter!

Skype launched a $12 million marketing campaign in Britain and the U.S. today, with the aim of challenging consumers to think about the quality of their personal communications. The theme is, "It's time for Skype."

Skype particularly wants to make a splash in London, taking over two of the city's busiest underground stations and space on a fleet of buses for a poster campaign.

From Pereira & O'Dell in San Francisco, the campaign has a go at other technologies and social media. Examples, "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 marketing, said the focus was "on big, bold statements to grab people's attention and get them to think about how they communicate."

She told AdAge the U.S. and the U.K. were chosen because of their importance to Skype and the maturity of their customer base. If all goes well, the project may be adapted for other markets.

Microsoft bought Skype last year for $8.5 billion, but hasn't until now invested the kind of money it has put into other Microsoft brands, such as Bing.

Strong joined Skype in October 2010 from Publicis Modem in San Francisco, where she was SVP-strategy and planning.

Pereira & O'Dell began working with Skype early this year and in their research discovered how infrequently people call family members and friends. That became part of their pitch.

"It was depressing and inspiring," said Justin Cox, of Pereira & O'Dell.

"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 on the same lines starts on April 19 . Cox said it would be "taking the provocative nature down a notch or two," and introduce more messages about specific features.

Digital work will appear on about 17 sites including CNN, BBC, Facebook, Lonely Planet, AOL, Yahoo, Wired, MSN, Mailonline, iVillage, CBS, and Hulu.

The aim: to raise awareness of Skype beyond the video calls for which it is best known. Said 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.

"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 campaign's social media effort, 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.