Skype is set to expand its advertising offer on its platform, including the introduction of adverts through Windows 8 and the implementation of a sponsored advertising strategy during the first half of next year.
Speaking at the Monaco Media Forum, Tony Bates, president for the Skype Division at Microsoft highlighted the plans, alongside the statistics that the service now received 280 million connected users worldwide each month.
He commented in reference to the company’s acquisition by Microsoft a year ago; “We’re very committed to multi-platform and one of the questions was whether we would stay true to that. Our fastest growing part of the ecosystem is actually the mobile ecosystem – we’re focusing on three major platforms – iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7 and now 8. We've just launched our preview app, which we think is very strong and is the best experience integrated so far for Skype.”
Bates explained that Skype had become a platform that was being used by people to make some of the ‘most important decisions’ of their lives, a factor that he would again highlight in discussing how it aimed to use this fact in its sponsored advertising strategy.
He continued to reveal that the company planned to continue to grow its audience; “Part of what we are going to be doing is broadening the experience by more sharing moments, be that through capturing moments that are more important to you or adding the ability to share a customer service moment, that’s going to continue to evolve within the product.”
Bates also said that the company believed that it was in a position to introduce a new form of advertising that could be shared on Skype through conversation.
“Ads are moving into the Windows 8 app and they are very contextual and immersive,” he stated before highlight the introduction over sponsored content and contexts in which it could work.
“One I like to think about is people who share closely with their family, buying their first car, which is perhaps the biggest purchase of someone’s life. They want to talk to their friends about it, perhaps go online. With Windows 8, as a tablet device, it has the ability to do things in parallel. Today, you could look at an ad or a piece of web content and you could have a two-way conversations. Before that could be done on two devices – it could be done on a single device. We think it could go beyond this where you could have a sponsored group or brand where you could actually have a deep and meaningful connection.”
Speaking to The Drum, Sandhya Venkatachalam, VP/GM, Advertising & Monetization for Skype, explained: “The first thing we want to do is make the adverts more interactive and shareable through a conversation trigger such as when buying a car, where they can customize the car and then initiate a call or share that with someone in their network. Then, simultaneously they can make a call where they will be able to configure the car together while having a conversation. It’s not just for the sake that we want to add it to the experience, it’s because when you make these types of decisions that are important with people you care about, it helps to do it in real-time. “
Sandhya explained that the vision for this ad format would be rolled out as ‘building blocks’ during the first half of next year before describing how the strategy would be developed.
“If you’re an airline brand, instead of having a direct message to fly, you can run a piece of content on holiday spots for the season. That is related to what we’re doing, but also promoting useful content sponsored by this particular brand. So you see it and then you want to share it. We can have an interaction and the airline can see the messaging around those vacation spots with a mini app to plan your trip in real-time. So this becomes something useful. It’s brought to you by someone who knows a lot about it, and those two verticals can help make those big purchasing decisions.
“That’s what we mean by sponsored content. Then the third building block is around brand destinations. That’s a little further back, and once we have more sharing and interactivity, as well as more sponsored content, then it makes sense for these brands to actually turn this into a branded destination on Skype."
Another topic covered by Bates was the impending merger between Skype and Windows Messenger, which he claimed was a “testament and affirmation” of the trust that Microsoft has in the platform.
“We’re targeting the end of Q1 to make that migration happen,” he revealed. “It’s available now. You can start using your Microsoft account and really bringing your buddies from Windows Messenger into Skype, but of course you get much more of an experience with Skype. It’s a strategic decision we’ve made together and it reaffirms the belief they have in the company.”