Skype Adds Ads to Free ConversationsA conversation on Skype is between you, the person on the other end -- and an advertiser. That’s the thinking behind the service’s new, targeted Conversation Ads. 

The ads, launched last week, were described on the Skype blog by Sandhya Venkatachalam, General Manager and Vice President of Advertising and Monetization, as an opportunity for marketers to “have meaningful conversations about brands in a highly engaging environment.”

Spark Additional Topics

The ads will appear in the calling window in Skype for Windows for users making free, 1 to 1 Skype-to-Skype audio calls. There is no indication yet if or when the ads will appear in other kinds of Skype calls, such as video calls, conference calls or calls on other platforms.

Venkatachalam said the ads will provide content that will “spark additional topics of conversation,” and advertisers will think of the ads as a way to generate discussion among friends about the brands.

The ads are available in the 55 markets where Skype is, and will only be seen by those users who do not have Skype credit or subscriptions. The ads do not affect the quality of the voice transmissions, will be silent and non-expanding, and will appear next to the image of the person on the other end of the conversation.

The company said that it may utilize non-personally identifiable demographics to help target the ads, including location, gender, or age. Venkatachalam wrote that such targeting “will help ensure that non-paying users see ads that are of greater interest and relevance to them.”

Opt Out of Personalized Targeting

Users can opt-out of this non-personal targeting, by going to the Privacy menu under Options in Tools. If a user chooses to opt-out, the ads can still be targeted using the location attribute. Users can also avoid the ads by simply minimizing the call window.

Skype, now owned by Microsoft, represents a potentially huge market for advertisers, with 41 million unique users of the voice-over-Internet-Protocol service, which also offers video calling and instant messaging.

The service allows users to make free or inexpensive calls around the world, over the Internet. It has become a popular means for personal communication by callers in different countries, and many businesses, especially smaller ones, regularly use some form of the service.

While the inclusion of ads in free calls could bring in substantial revenue to the service, its true value may lie in providing another reason for users to sign up for premium, ad-free services.