Carat Interactive media buyer Sarah Fay said her agency has placed ads on all the major IM networks. "We're big fans of it, and we're using all of the IM products of the other providers of that platform," she said. Fay added that her agency would have no hesitation to advertise on Google as well, assuming the company's messaging service proved as popular as the other major instant messengers. "We would be just as likely to use Google as another IM property--if they get themselves to the same level of usage as the others," she said.
Other instant messaging services have a multitude of ads. America Online's AIM, for instance, displays banner ads above users' contact lists. At MSN, users can download "skins," which will brand their contact list and message windows.
The first major advertiser to employ MSN's branded messenger windows was Coca-Cola North America. In March, Coca-Cola incorporated Sprite's action-figure pitchman, Miles Thirst, in the messenger by creating a branded Web site, skin, and sound files that could be played to contacts during IM conversations. MSN Messenger also monetized video chat by adding seven-second pre-mercials while the users' computers buffer the video connection.
Companies advertising with AOL's instant messenger include Classmates.com and Fox. Yahoo! uses the messaging tool to drive users to their already monetized properties.
Fay added that one of the big draws of IM advertising is that on some services, users can choose to display skins to their contacts, effectively giving the ads a viral nature. "As an ad vehicle, I'm a big fan of instant messenger," she said. "The proposition is, because it's viral, and it's chosen by the person who displays it on the IM screen, you gain an instant credibility."
Still, it's not clear that Google will allow display advertising on the product. Google Director of Product Management Georges Harik told OnlineMediaDaily that Google developers were not convinced that advertisements are the appropriate way to monetize an instant messaging service, and that the company is looking into ways to profit from the service "in a way that's consistent with the user experience."