Skype has rebuilt, an ad-friendly platform for Windows 8. Its three components will be rolled out in phases beginning in the first quarter of 2013.
"We're making a huge bet on mobile," said Sandhya Venkatachalam, GM of advertising and monetization for Skype. "That's definitely the future of Skype."
The first component is the ability to build on the current Conversation Ads offering by letting people in a Skype conversation share and collaborate on content. For example, two car shoppers in different locations might be able to configure and customize a car together.
The second component is sponsored content that would encourage interlocutors to share it. "An airline, instead of doing traditional display advertising, could share info with the Skype audience about vacation spots for the holiday season. The airline could develop within Skype a branded trip planning tool," Venkatachalam said.
The third component would be some kind of persistent, branded presence within Skype, according to Venkatachalam, with users opting into an "ongoing dialog" with brands.
While these offerings sound similar to those of Facebook and other social networks, she said the difference is that Skype's brand advertising would be more oriented toward small, more personal experiences, "the kind of in-depth, trusted conversations could not occur on mass social media. You can feel more free and say what you think, because it's not out in the world. That's an angle that's very complimentary to other social media sites and can provide a richer conversation for brands with users
To start, the ad formats will only be available to devices using Windows 8, Microsoft's new operating system. Eventually, the ads will support Android and iOS devices, as well.
While most operating systems have been designed to form the basis for functionality supplied by other software, she said that Windows 8 was designed as an advertising platform, and Skype has been redesigned from the ground up for Windows 8. "Windows 8 is modern, fast, fluid, and incorporates advertising from the ground up. It was built with advertising and these kinds of experiences in mind," she said.
Venkatachalam said that a large and growing percent of portion of the user base accesses Skype on mobile, with 16 percent using it only on mobile and more than 30 percent of U.S. users using Skype on both desktop and mobile devices.
Microsoft acquired Skype in October 2011 and immediately began including Skype inventory in the United States in Microsoft Advertising. Later, it added international markets.
In April 2012, Microsoft execs said they were pondering new ad units for the VOIP service.
Skype began including demographically targeted ads in its interface in March 2011, displaying them in the home tab of Skype for Windows. Advertisers including Groupon, Universal Pictures and Visa occasionally appeared in a large banner at the top of the Skype window. In May 2011, Coke did a promotion for its 125th anniversary concert with an ad placement on Skype Home.
In June 2012, Skype launched Conversation Ads, display ad units that appear within the calling window of users who do not have Skype Credit or subscriptions when they're making Skype-to-Skype audio calls using Skype for Windows.
Skype advertising is integrated with the Microsoft Advertising platform, and Skype ads are on par with the rest of Microsoft publishers, according to Venkatachalam. She promised, "There's a lot more we can do than traditional targeting over time. One will be discoverable, here's something I want to talk about. The other will be search and recommend. Over time, we can recommend in a more targeted way as we learn what a particular user is doing and how deep they're going."