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Let’s give ‘em something to talk about: Skype rolls out targeted ‘Conversation ads’

Conv Ad Screenshot for PR with Unilever Magnum Ad

Skype is jumping into its own version of targeted in-call display ads with “Conversation Ads,” which will display ad units within the calling window for those users who have not purchased Skype Credit or subscribed to its services.

For now, the ads will be displayed during 1:1 Skype-to-Skype audio calls strictly on Windows platforms.

Previously, the service offered free Skype-to-Skype calls, and made money on users who wanted to make Skype-to-phone calls. Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion in May 2011, which may have caused the shift in strategies — after all, the company has its own advertising network. Microsoft’s long-term strategy for its calling service includes serving ads through Skype on multiple platforms including Windows Phone, Windows, Xbox, Office and Lync.

Skype claims the advertisements will be as minimally intrusive as possible, and hopes that the ads will spur discussions between the call’s participants. “Skype call quality will remain the same. Ads will be silent, non-expanding and run after we’ve completed our regular detailed quality checks on your connection, Sandhya Venkatachalam, GM/VP of advertising and monetization at Skype, wrote in a blog post. “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.”

For those of you worried about how much of your personal information will be used to serve targeted ads, Venkatachalam included an excerpt of the privacy policy surrounding the new changes:

We may use non-personally identifiable demographic information (e.g. location, gender and age) to target ads. This will help ensure that non-paying users see ads that are of greater interest and relevance to them. Users can opt-out of allowing Skype to use some of this non-personally identifiable information from the Privacy menu in Tools -> Options of Skype for Windows. If the user opts-out, they will still receive advertisements relevant to their location, but Skype will not use other demographic information for this purpose.

Microsoft Advertising’s also plans to incorporate banner ads both above and to the right of the activity feed of a user’s home page, though these features didn’t come up in Skype’s announcement. Based on its provided mock ups, it appears that the banner ads will in fact be expanding ads.

Skype ad Pepsi skype side banner ad

Microsoft Advertising also included a mockup of an ad banner integrated into Skype’s mobile app.

skype mobile app ad

What do you think about Skype’s push to monetize its non-paying users? Will this affect your calling experience?