PRIMEDIA wanted a path for its subsidiary Consumer Source to reach people nationwide looking to rent an apartment or home. The company supports about 20,000 advertisers. So it tapped a click-to-call Skype service that turns the Web company into a telecom carrier to support Web to landline phone calls. The service, offered through Marchex, relies on location and search queries on engines like Google.
The click-to-call service shifted PRIMEDIA's marketing strategy from pushing searches on engines to Web sites, to driving phone calls and emails to property management companies. PRIMEDIA pays for the call. The strategy ties in with online advertising at Yahoo Local, Citysearch and other local Yellow Page-like sites.
Consumers looking for a rental property or storage facilities typically conduct a search query on the Web to find the store's phone number and location. The Skype service provides a free phone call for shoppers. For PRIMEDIA's clients, the service helps rental agencies fill empty apartments and generate marketing leads. For Skype, it increases the number of people using the Web to call a landline through an ad-supported model.
The industry had lacked opportunities to drive advertising dollars through online phone calls to drive clicks and conversions. Marchex has been testing the service with Skype for a few months, but the two companies officially rolled it out earlier this week.
Skype targets PRIMEDIA's "sweet spot," driving interest by ages 18 to 34, says Tracy Dodd, director of interactive media at Consumer Source, a PRIMEDIA company. "They don't pick up their cell phone or home phone, because it's all done on their computer," she says. "We launched the service two weeks ago. One of our clients finds that many of their customers use this service through a mobile phone."
Consumers using the service, however, must download Skype and have the ability to talk and hear calls through the computer. Some older computers require people to use a headset, while the newer computers have a built-in microphone and speakers good enough to make the calls without additional equipment.
Advertisers agree to pay a fixed amount per call, along with a budget. The rates are based on advertiser categories. Consumers with Skype software and plug-in installed on their PC can see participating advertiser phone numbers highlighted as a blue "Free Call" button across the Web. Consumers who see the blue "Free Call" button respond by placing calls to the advertiser by clicking through icons. Advertisers pay only for completed phone calls.
Aside from PRIMEDIA, Marchex supports click-to-call advertising through Skype for Razorfish, DISH Network and Extra Space Storage. Advertisers, agencies and marketing services providers have begun to use the service to drive calls for local and national business advertising customers, such as Yellow Pages companies, certified marketing representatives, independent local advertising services providers, direct marketing providers and newspapers.