UK websites back toolbar ad innovation

Channel 4, Dennis Interactive, ITV and Yahoo! are among UK website owners to throw their weight behind Ooqa Ooqa, a new online advertising format that enables marketers to put their branding on a Web browser’s toolbar.

Ooqa Ooqa allows publishers to sell the browser bar – the area at the top of the browser window where control buttons such as back, forward and refresh are usually found – as if it were advertising space.

Martin Wright, European head of sales and business development at United Virtualities, which developed Ooqa Ooqa, says: “This is an unexploited online ad property.” He admits that while some publishers thought consumers might find it intrusive, they were reassured by the fact that users can easily disable Ooqa Ooqa if they wish.

So far, the only company to run a marketing campaign using Ooqa Ooqa in the UK has been film distributor UIP, which tested it with a Thunderbirds campaign on ITV’s children’s website, CiTV. UIP is about to launch a second campaign using Ooqa Ooqa for Shark Tales, the new Pixar animated movie. UK media buying and planning for these campaigns is being handled by Zed, which has been working with United Virtualities to market the new format in this country.

Wright stresses that Ooqa Ooqa does more than simply replace the browser bar with a branded one: it allows marketers to tailor the functionality of the browser to “enhance the user experience”, for example by offering news feeds, music and video downloads or share price information. Advertisers are also able to include data-capture mechanisms.

More than 30 online publishers in 14 countries have approved the technology for use on their websites. MSN, Lycos, Wanadoo, AOL and Tiscali have given the go-ahead in various national markets, but not yet in the UK.

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