Skype Introduces Social Ad Units for Windows 8

Skype plans to open up its voice and video calls to Facebook- and Google Plus-like “experiences” involving advertisers on Windows 8, the company announced on Thursday.

While vague on specifics, the company offered the following scenarios in which Skype on Win 8 might accommodate new ad formats. The enhancements will be offered on Win 8 first and then migrate to other platforms:

1. Interactive Bilateral Conversation Experiences

This feature would let participants in a conversation peruse relevant information from Skype advertisers. In Skype’s example, someone shopping for a car could create an interactive experience with the person on the other end, in which the first person could customize his car and the other could see the same view of the car. Finally, they can both schedule a test drive.

2. Sponsored Content and Shared Experiences

In this example, a consumer is chatting with a friend and planning a vacation. The consumer could then use Skype’s built-in sharing capabilities to share top vacation spots and content from a vacation-focused brand and even plan a trip using a tool created by the brand.

3. Permanent Persistent Presence on Skype

Sponsored groups could let advertisers offer news, entertainment and games a la Facebook. In Skype’s example, a TV could run a “conversation ad.” When a consumer clicked on the ad, she would be taken to a sponsored group with info about the contestants and video highlights from the show. The TV show could arrange a video call with one of its stars to answer questions via Skype from the Skype group a la Google Plus’ Hangouts.

Skype, which positions itself as a more emotional and “real” type of social media connection facilitator than Facebook, Twitter or G+, is leveraging that position for advertising. Sandhya Venkatachalam, GM of advertising and monetization for Skype, says the ad units are non-intrusive and even add to the Skype experience. “We actually do believe advertising is an extension of what we do very well,” she says.

The ads continue a monetization scheme the brand began in March 2011 with ads on Skype’s homepage. In June, Skype introduced Conversation Ads, which display content during audio calls that “are relevant to Skype users,” according to the company.

Skype, which Microsoft bought for $8.5 billion in May 2011, is challenged to serve up ads without angering users, who can now use the ad-free Google Hangouts and FaceTime to place free video calls. However, Skype has distribution in its favor — the company claims 280 million monthly users and its inclusion in Windows 8 ensures its continuing popularity.

For her part, Venkatachalam says she believes Skype’s new advertising is not intrusive and delivers a high-impact association marketers. “Each call experience delivers higher impact than traditional media,” she says. “Skype gives brands a way sponsor human emotions.

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