Media: Lifeline - Zip

Launched as a consultancy, Zip is on its way to becoming an interactive TV advertising agency

November 2002: Launched by Andrew Howells (below) earlier in the year as a consultancy, Zip runs a survey - sponsored by Channel 4, Sky, Claritas and Diss Promotional Marketing, as well as the Direct Marketing Association - to examine the advertising potential of interactive TV.

2003: The keenest participants in the survey, including Orange, Reckitt Benckiser, BT, Honda, Unilever and Procter & Gamble, begin to coalesce into a group called Consortium4TV. Over the months, a clear goal emerges - to develop an alternative to BSkyB in developing software and systems that can manage interactive content on digital television platforms.

January 2004: Zip signals the serious nature of its ambitions when it secures the services of Scott Gronmark, previously the head of interactive television programmes at the BBC. Widely acknowledged as one of the world's foremost interactive TV talents, he joins a line-up that now also includes the managing partner, Donna Barradale.

July 2004: Zip TV finally gets off the ground with an interactive TV campaign - accessible initially only through Channel 4 ad breaks - for Honda. But other broadcasters begin to come on board and Zip finishes the year strongly.

Now: Procter & Gamble exits the consortium following a row triggered by confidentiality issues. A cornerstone of the Zip philosophy is that all members benefit if they share learning, data and research with the rest. Unilever is one of the group's more active members, while P&G has been reluctant to contribute to the knowledge pool.

Fast forward: January 2006 - As Zip and Sky decide to work more in partnership on the technology front, Zip becomes more of an interactive television advertising agency rather than a consultancy. It also begins to produce a wider spectrum of branded content for use on digital channels. As rival agencies emerge, it seeks an injection of funding from one of the major advertising holding companies.