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Overture takes search ads to U.K. phones

Mobile phones in the United Kingdom will soon sport advertiser-sponsored search engine links after two major players strike a deal with Overture Services.

U.K. mobile phones will soon sport advertiser-sponsored search engine links after two major players struck a deal with Internet search specialist Overture Services.

Vodafone and France Telecom-owned Orange will begin displaying the ads later this spring on their Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) portals Vodafone live and Orange World, Overture said Tuesday.

Overture, owned by Yahoo, started the practice of selling ordinary-looking Web page links at the top of search engine query lists. Advertisers bid for popular search terms such as "digital camera'' or "travel'' with the highest bidder getting the most prominent position atop the list.

Selling ads in this way has driven the recovery of online advertising and has triggered a pitched battle among some of the largest Internet companies including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN.

The push is now to bring such services to the hundreds of millions of Internet-enabled gadgets and mobile phones.

At launch, Overture will sell WAP page ads on the mobile operators' travel portals. A mobile phone user searching for "airfare" can navigate with a few key taps to an advertisers' specially designed WAP page and make a purchase by tapping a "call this number'' link.

Overture announced one such advertiser as online travel agent

"Initially, we will deploy our...commercial search model on text and location-based services, gradually moving on to more sophisticated applications allowing easy migration to 3G" mobile technology,'' said Martin Child, managing director of Overture's northern Europe unit.

Overture plans to add more operators and more territories in the coming months by working with British technology firm Mobile Commerce.

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.