Now that Luxembourgian company Skype has been gobbled up my Microsoft, the latter is expectedly discontent with the revenue stream provided by their international calling plans and online numbers alone. Indeed, the bulk of their users strictly utilize the free, Skype-to-Skype video and voice calls. Therefore, Skype is rolling out personalized ads, such as the one you see in the image above, for these free-loading users. These ads are referred to as “Conversation Ads” as they provide “an opportunity for marketers to reach our hundreds of millions of connected users in a place where they can have meaningful conversations about brands in a highly engaging environment.”
That’s right. Skype is hoping that in serving up targeted ads, they will prompt a conversation regarding the product presented in the ad, or in their own marketing-speak, “generate fun interactivity between your circle of friends and family and the brands you care about.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t care much about any brand, except maybe my favorite sports teams? Yes, if the Packers serve me a Skype ad saying Aaron Rodgers has signed a lifetime contract with the team, that might get me to talk a bit about the brand with the person on the other line. But I do not feel strongly about Magnum Ice Cream; it is delicious, but I rarely feel inclined to preach its virtue to the masses.
No matter; I constantly call out the advertising industry, and as previously mentioned, it continues to be a multi-million dollar industry, so I suppose any innovation in the field will be more efficacious than I give it credit for. While you can’t opt out of the ads entirely, you can limit the amount of personal information that goes into serving the targeted ads, in the pretty involved process outlined on the Skype Blog:
Users can opt-out of allowing Skype to use some of this non-personally identifiable information from the Privacy menu in Tools -> Options of Skype for Windows. If the user opts-out, they will still receive advertisements relevant to their location, but Skype will not use other demographic information for this purpose. To opt-out of the use of non-personally identifiable information by our Ad Serving Partners for the purpose of serving advertisements of greater interest to you please visit Microsoft Advertising at http://choice.live.com/advertisementchoice. Or you can visit the websites of the Network Advertising Initiative or the Digital Advertising Alliance, each of which provides a simple way to opt-out of ad targeting from participating companies.
These targeted ads are currently restricted to Skype-to-Skype voice calls made by non-paying customers on a Windows computer (it is unclear what occurs when one party is a paying customer.) But I am sure it’s just a matter of time before such ads creep their way into video calls and other platforms. I can also foresee paying customers eventually being burdened with these ads. Le sigh.