"This is going to be very big," DoubleClick Exec VP Wenda Harris Millard told reps amassed in a basement conference room in DoubleClick's New York office to learn about a secrecy-shrouded portal they now need to sell.
IWon launched last week with $70 million in promotion and advertising support over four years from CBS Corp. The portal, majority owned by CBS, was known only as Project Bulldog before its Oct. 5 debut. Even DoubleClick, iWon's exclusive seller of advertising and sponsorships, didn't know the name or business model, so the portal opened sans launch advertisers.
But when the curtain went up, DoubleClick employees learned that iWon (www.iwon.com) rewards registered users with entries into a cash giveaway -- $10,000 every day, $1 million every month and $10 million on April 17, 2000 -- every time they click on a text link, banner or other location on the site.
'UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION'
"Our unique selling proposition is the combination of a fully functional destination portal that offers world-class search, content and functionality and a cash giveaway," iWon VP-Marketing Jon Brod said in an interview.
IWon has partnered with 25 companies that will provide content, including CBS-backed online properties such as MarketWatch and SportsLine and other sites such as Travelocity. Inktomi Corp. provides search capabilities.
The portal targets "mainstream America," PC users age 25 to 54 with some Internet experience.
"We designed the site to reward people for what they're already doing online," Mr. Brod said.
In his pitch to DoubleClick sales reps, iWon Co-CEO Bill Daugherty stressed the value of CBS' investment, which he said will give the portal "massive exposure" to go up against the likes of Yahoo! and America Online.
Today, iWon launches a $40 million, six-month campaign from Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York. The campaign will run across CBS properties including TV and radio with the tagline, "Why wouldn't you?"
'SELL IT AT A PREMIUM'
IWon will be a competitive buy, iWon executives told DoubleClick salespeople, because of its anticipated high traffic, ability to reach mainstream Web users who are motivated by sweepstakes, and packaging of co-branded content.
"Sell it at a premium," DoubleClick reps were told.
Sales reps expressed some concerns at the meeting, attended by Advertising Age. One questioned how interested advertisers would be in putting banners and buttons on a site where iWon then assigns a point value to each ad, which may encourage consumers to click on ads just to enter the cash contest.
"Advertisers will be looking for qualified buyers and ROI [return on investment]," another rep said. The iWon contingent explained the ad model is still a work in progress, but argued the consumer registration process would allow advertisers to reach targeted buyers.
MODEL RAISES QUESTIONS
To be sure, advertisers may be concerned about a model that encourages visitors to click to better their chances of winning a prize -- rather than read pages. The potential result: numerous Web pages getting a lot of hits from non-customers.
"This is a business model based not on any kind of stickiness measurement," said Allen Weiner, VP-analytical services at NetRatings, a Web audience and ad measurement service.
TRICK IS IN THE TRANSITION
IWon's model is to bring people in to try to win some money and, secondarily, gain some information, Mr. Weiner said.
"The trick will be in their transitioning from being a sweepstakes site to a serious portal site, which obviously CBS wants to build. If successful, iWon could be CBS' main Internet portal," he said. "But the way you achieve that is through content, not through a gimmick."
The portal is the first of two launching this month and vying for market share. The other is CMGI's MyWay (AA, Oct. 4).
DoubleClick has a contract with CMGI-owned AltaVista that expires in December 2001. Both DoubleClick and AltaVista executives said DoubleClick's iWon portal win doesn't affect that contract and breaks no exclusivity clauses.
There is no conflict in DoubleClick representing iWon in additon to AltaVista, said Charles Rashall, VP-marketing at AltaVista. "DoubleClick will continue to be a significant player for us. DoubleClick's offering and brand are so strong," he said. But he also said AltaVista needs a strong internal sales team and will