Skype debuts ‘Conversation Ads’ for audio calls, hopes to get you talking about them

Skype, a.k.a. Microsoft’s Skype Division, just announced a new form of advertising on its service, called “Conversation Ads.” The ads will appear in the on-screen interface for people making free audio calls with other Skype users in the Windows version of the software. But the company isn’t inserting these ads into its signature video-calling feature, at least not yet.

In other words, it’s not as intrusive as the name makes it sound. But the company may be engaged in a bit of wishful thinking by suggesting that the ads themselves will become a subject of the discussions people are having.

“While on a 1:1 audio call, users will see content that could spark additional topics of conversation that are relevant to Skype users and highlight unique and local brand experiences,” writes Sandhya Venkatachalam, the general manager of advertising and monetization for Skype, in a blog post. “So, 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. Ultimately, we believe this will help make Skype a more engaging and useful place to have your conversations each and every day.”

That seems like a stretch. People seem more likely to ignore the ads, or minimize the window, than they are to talk about what’s being advertised.

Maybe I’m not a representative example, but these ads would need to be highly relevant for me to add them to the agenda for whatever Skype call I happen to be making, and it’s hard to imagine the algorithms achieving that level of relevance without knowing the subject of the conversation.

Guidelines for the ads are listed here, including prohibitions on video and audio.

ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley notes, via one of her readers, that Skype announced these types of ads back in September 2011, prior to the Microsoft acquisition. However, it’s likely to be just one of numerous ways that Skype will try to make more money from its service as part of Microsoft from here on out.