VoIP firm hopes to capitalize on high user engagement rates with premium rich media executions.
Popular Internet calling and messaging service Skype will roll out ads in its Windows-based desktop client in the U.S., Germany and the U.K. this week. It's the first time advertisers will be granted access to the service's 145 million monthly users, with Visa being the first to make use of the opportunity in the U.S. tomorrow.
Display ads will be sold on a daily sponsorship basis, Skype's director of advertising Andy Sims told ClickZ, with a focus on premium brand advertisers. "We're aiming to offer high-engagement creative in a social-oriented place and fill a niche in the market," he said.
At launch that creative will consist of a large 650 x 170 pixels masthead space on the "Home" section of the Skype app, which expands to 650 x 340 and can incorporate video, audio, social media options, and other rich-media functionalities. Ads will not be frequency-capped, meaning users will be exposed to the unit throughout their interactions with Skype as they return to the home section of the software.
Rather than sell inventory itself, Skype has chosen instead to partner with local sales houses to broker deals on its behalf. In the U.S. it has recruited social sharing platform Meebo to fill that role, while Ad2One and Ströer Interactive will represent it in the U.K. and Germany, respectively. In the U.S., brands will therefore have the opportunity to buy across both Skype and Meebo from a single point of contact.
Speaking with ClickZ, Meebo's chief revenue officer, Carter Brokaw, implied similarities in the ways the two companies approach advertising. "Philosophically we have always believed in the currency of time," he said, in reference to the period a user spends "engaged" with an ad. "[Skype] has a lot of highly engaged users and time spent with their consumer offering."
Meebo charges advertisers on a cost per engagement basis, utilizing numerous data and behavioral signals to help it place the right ad in front of the right user. Despite the company's access to demographic data and other detailed user-signup information, Sims said Skype currently has no intention to segment its audience for sales purposes, focusing its efforts solely on homepage takeover-type buys.
But he added that the product is still in its infancy and the company will continue to experiment with different opportunities. "It's definitely early days. We will be testing and learning as we go, and that's as much detail as we can get into right now," he said.
Given the richness of Meebo and Skype's datasets, greater advertiser efficiencies could certainly be gained through the introduction of segmented targeting to Skype's offering.
Despite this, Sims reinforced the fact that his company is focused firmly on big name brand advertisers, rather than the niche or direct-response oriented advertisers more often associated with targeted advertising.
"We're trying to attract advertisers that want to make a big announcement… really big brands that want to do big brand things," Sims said, naming verticals such as entertainment, auto, and travel. He added, though, that ads could include a call to action in the form of a click-to-call placed within ad creative, opening the door to lead generation opportunities.
Alongside Visa, Skype's first advertisers will also include Groupon, Nokia, and Universal Pictures, though Sims did not disclose which market each advertiser will run in. At launch the ads will only be displayed in the Windows version of the desktop application, and Sims also refused to disclose if or when they would be extended to the Mac or mobile platforms.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.
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