iWon.com to Go In-House

Sweepstakes-based portal iWon.com will be handling the majority of its own ad sales following an internal restructuring and a reshaping of the deal with ad rep DoubleClick.

In April, CBS-backed iWon tapped former ESPN/ABC Sports‘ national sales head Evan Sternschein as an executive vice president for national sales, although at the time the company gave little additional indication of its intent to go in-house.

Following the appointment of Sternschein, who oversaw more than $2 billion in annual revenue, iWon established a sales team of more than 50 representatives, with company spokespeople saying 30 more would be added by year’s end.

To support the team, the company opened sales offices in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.

“There are very few times in life when you are afforded the opportunity to lead the sales effort on behalf of a truly extraordinary product,” Sternschein said. “I think the advertising community will be very pleased with what we have to offer.”

In accordance with the move in-house and continuing a ramping-down of the companies’ involvement, iWon.com will be limiting its relationship with DoubleClick to participation in its ad network.

Previously, DoubleClick served ads and handled all of the site’s sales. Beginning in early October, the portal only will be carried on DoubleClick’s network of 1,300 sites, aimed at publishers moving excess inventory.

Additionally, iWon announced in July that it would be licencing ad serving technology from DoubleClick archrival Engage.

“DoubleClick’s done a great job getting us up and running, ” Sternschein said. “But we’re now 10 months old. We’ve reached a scale when we need our own sales force, and we felt it’s the better move to bring the majority of sales in-house.”

Despite the ramping-down of services, DoubleClick executives reiterated their satisfaction with the relationship.

“We are pleased to announce the new two year contract with iWon,” said DoubleClick Network vice president Beth-Ann Eason. “We have been working together since the first day of their launch and look forward to continued success.”

While in the works for some time, the deal is a signal of possible trouble ahead for DoubleClick. Last month, the company’s prize client AltaVista announced that it would be ramping down its relationship with the ad network, also moving ad sales in-house over a period of two years. The disassociation of these two clients indicates that large Web sites — which for DoubleClick could generate the highest dollar volume in revenues — are outgrowing the company and bringing ad sales in-house as they mature.

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