There are plenty of banner advertising companies, and plenty that focus on widget ads. Now a startup called MediaForge offers a platform that brings the two together.

With MediaForge’s technology, banner ads become a lot more interactive — when users roll their cursors over the banners, an interactive widget appears that can showcase special deals, purchasing options or various media.

For example, when you mouse over an ad from MediaForge customer Overstock.com, a window appears that lets you browse through the day’s top sellers and specials (see screenshot at left). According to MediaForge, Overstock’s test campaign with the platform led to a 12 percent increase in return on investment.

Interactive advertising through widgets is definitely taking off, but I’m not sure the banner-widget hybrid does much that a widget can’t do on its own. On the other hand, not only can MediaForge help companies create hybrid ads, it can also “socialize” (i.e., add widgets to) existing banners. Companies wanting to expand existing banner ad campaigns, rather than starting from scratch, seem to be the startup’s target audience.

The company raised $1.5 million in 2006. It’s based in Salt Lake City.