Skype has just announced the launch of “Conversation Ads,” bringing display advertisements right into the calling window for users making 1:1 Skype-to-Skype audio calls. Right now, the ads, which are silent and non-expanding, only appear for users who do not have Skype Credit or subscriptions and are using Skype for Windows. There’s currently no word as to when/if these adds will expand to Mac or mobile users.
One of Skype’s best features is its price, but now that the company is actually attempting to monetize its free users, the odds are that there will be a bit of user backlash. This is likely why the company is testing the waters by only targeting audio calls on Windows.
Here’s what the ads, which are targeted by location, gender and age, will look like (note that Magnum appears to be a launch partner):
From Sandhya Venkatachalam, the GM/VP of Advertising & Monetization at Skype:
We’re excited to introduce Conversations Ads as an opportunity for marketers to reach our hundreds of millions of connected users in a place where they can have meaningful conversations about brands in a highly engaging environment. Skype is already at the center of meaningful conversations, where families, friends, and colleagues spend time together.
While on a 1:1 audio call, users will see content that could spark additional topics of conversation that are relevant to Skype users and highlight unique and local brand experiences. So, you should think of Conversation Ads as a way for Skype to generate fun interactivity between your circle of friends and family and the brands you care about. Ultimately, we believe this will help make Skype a more engaging and useful place to have your conversations each and every day.
According to the announcement, users are able to opt-out of allowing Skype to use age and gender details for targeting ads, but there is no way to hide location-related information from advertisers.
This move, which was certainly influenced by Microsoft as Skype is selling through Microsoft’s own advertising network, is an important push for Skype’s profitability in the long run. Hopefully, users wont react too negatively to the “tainting” of Skype’s famously free service, but it certainly makes sense for Skype to try and get something out of its massive non-paying user-base.