Ads Gone Wild

Steve Hamm

I pride myself on not being susceptible to advertising—yet here I am raving about a handful of the latest ad wrinkles and innovations. Check out the item in this week’s BusinessWeek. And now I’m blown away by the handiwork of United Virtualities.

Thanks (or maybe it should be “no thanks”?) to these guys, browsers are capable of looking like the Las Vegas strip at midnight.

This frisky outfit pioneered the first “floating ads” on the Web in 1999. Now they’re coming out with a new Web advertising format called Shoshmosis, which makes it possible for advertisers to ad interactivity to video advertisements. If a consumer clicks on an object in the video while the ad is running, they can be taken to a Web site to learn more about that item or even to a site where they can immediately buy it.

Don’t expect to see much of this stuff for a while. United Virtualities still has some selling to do to win over advertisers. But just now its last innovation is starting to make a statement on the Web. It’s called Ooqa-Ooqa, and it’s a format that allows advertisers to take over Internet Explorer when a consumer visits a Web site that has the technology. The advertiser gets a thick horizontal strip at the top of the browser to place graphics, type, and a customized menu bar. An example is the ad for the SpongeBob Squarepants movie at the UK’s Citv Web site. (If it’s not there when you click, try back later.) If I was a kid dazzled by this display, I’d run straight to mom demanding an advance on my allowance.

The man responsible for all of this flash and interactivity is Mooke Tenembaum, the outgoing 49-year-old Israeli/Argentine founder of United Virtualities. He explains that he was looking for a way to avoid putting advertising in front of content. "We wanted to not cover content and to keep ads in front of people for a long time," Mookie says. In fact, during a smattering of earlier ad campaigns on Citv, the ads averaged over five minutes exposure per unique user. After you land on a page loaded with Ooqa-Ooqa, the ad treatment stays on your browser until you press an opt-out button.

Ooqa-Ooqa will irritate many people, no doubt. But, on the right Web page, it’s a great new option for advertisers. Nintendo and Chevrolet have been trying it out. You can expect it to become part of the Web’s wacky mainstream.

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