Microsoft is Skyping the planet -- moving the reinvented technology into Windows 8 and, more recently, into the workspace. Now, the technology giant plans to use the platform to reinvent advertising.
On the Microsoft Advertising blog, at the Monaco Media Forum, and elsewhere the company is describing these "new premium advertising experiences," called Skype Ads for Windows 8. Skype's general manager for advertising and monetization, Sandhya Venkatachalam, told AdWeek on Thursday that the company is beta-testing an ad platform that is interactive, social and conversational.
Venkatachalam described possible ads that resemble services or interactive apps more than ads. For instance, auto configuration tools on Skype could allow two people on either ends of a phone call to mutually play with customization -- and then schedule an actual test drive of some version of the envisioned vehicle.
Another example: An airline could provide a list of vacation spots and trip planning tools, which Skype users could share, in real-time or not, to plan out a family trip.
The most exciting idea, she told AdWeek, could be "the vision of building a more permanent and persistent destination on Skype where brands have an ongoing dialog with the Skype audience."
This kind of dialog, according to Microsoft, could take the form of a sponsored, interactive social group that, say, lets participants view clips from a TV show, get more info about the show's contestants, and perhaps have live video calls with a contestant.
As an ad platform, Skype potentially starts out with a large base. The company has said that it currently has more than 280 million monthly active users, or MAUs. The average session on Skype is 30 minutes long, and half of the calls are video-based.
Conversation Ads, Skype in Workspace
This new vision is the latest in a series of advertising-related initiatives Microsoft has undertaken with Skype. In May, the company announced Conversation Ads, which are intended to provide conversation starters for callers using the service, although some observers also saw them as a way to drive users to sign up for the premium, ad-free version. Microsoft has also unveiled homepage sponsorships for desktop and mobile.
Last week, the company launched Skype in the workspace, or SITW. The free online service is intended to foster the creation of communities for small- and medium-size businesses, where users post and respond to opportunities and follow up with IM, phone calls and live demonstrations.
In its announcement of SITW, Microsoft did not outline the revenue stream, although it is expected that, as with other free online products, additional premium services could be offered for a price -- or the new, participatory Skype ads could be rolled out so that, for instance, callers could exchange or sample interactive tools advertised for a business service or product.
The company also recently said that its Messenger communications service would be ending its 12-year lifespan for most markets by the end of first-quarter 2013. Microsoft is attempting to transition the 100-million-plus Messenger users to Skype.