DDB wins $13 million, pan-European account for French portal site ifrance

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PARIS--French Internet portal site ifrance.com has awarded its $13 million pan-European advertising budget to Omnicom Group-controlled DDB, Paris.

The appointment follows a final pitch against Havas Advertising-controlled Enjoy Scher Lafarge, Paris. Pitching in earlier rounds were Havas shop Euro RSCG BETC and independent Manitoba, both Paris.

Omnicom-owned media specialist Optimum Media Direction will handle offline media buying, while DDB Interactive and OMDi, both Paris, respectively, will handle interactive ads and online space buying.

The campaign, set to launch in June, will aim to increase use of the portal in France as well as mirror sites to be launched this summer in Italy and Spain.

Created in 1998, ifrance.com offers its 300,000 members services including free e-mail and personal pages, an electronic agenda, and a range of content, including news and chat groups and an online directory service.

Internet audience monitor MMXI places ifrance.com 12th on its list of most-visited sites in France, with nearly 20% of all French Internet users logging on at least once monthly. The site generates 72 mil-lion pages viewed each month, 54 million of which include paid advertising.

Ifrance's plans may change drastically, however. French conglomerate Vivendi -- a minority shareholder in ifrance.com via venture capital arm Viventures -- is believed to be considering a buy-out of the site.

Vivendi is simultaneously negotiating its withdrawal from AOL France, a move that would allow it to place its principal Internet activities in ifrance.com.The portal site will shortly begin offering free Internet access, which could be coupled with a telecommunications package from Vivendi-owned phone company Cegetel.

Copyright May 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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