IWon Adds Superstitial as Fifth New Ad Format

Internet portal iWon.com hopes to satisfy clients and its own advertising revenue goals by adding the Unicast Superstitial ad format.

The Superstitial is the fifth new format that the portal has added in the past three weeks. All of them have debuted since iWon took over its ad selling chores from DoubleClick, New York, in the fourth quarter of 2000. The other products, which allow advertisers to personalize their ads and embed call-to-action features in them, are iWon Click, iPersonalize, iCustomize and iAttract.

“Adding the Superstitial is part of our overall strategy to offer new products for clients,” said Evan Sternschein, executive vice president of sales at iWon, Irvington, NY.

Superstitial ads pop up when users click between Web pages. Many users get frustrated with pop ups, but Sternschein said, “It's not annoying in any way. It's not intrusive. We put a frequency cap on it so users don't get bombarded with it.”

Web marketers have seen little return on investment from standard banner ad campaigns, causing the Internet ad market to soften, and many Web sites that depended on banner ad revenue to survive have folded. While recent estimates show that click-through rates for standard banners are less than 1 percent, Unicast reports its Superstitial ads draw an average 6 percent click-through rate.

“We're not relying on the 468-by-60 banner anymore. Clients are trying to find out what gets better response and recall rates,” said Sternschein, a 20-year ad sales veteran.

Jim Nail, senior researcher at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA, agreed that there is a trend for Web sites such as iWon to “service [clients] rather than ride the merry-go-round and grab as many [users] as possible.”

iWon plans to research a report released last week by the Internet Advertising Bureau that issued voluntary guidelines for seven new, larger ad units that have been used on Web sites run by CNET Networks Inc., including its News.com site, Sternschein said.

“I haven't seen anything catch on as quickly as [these new formats] for a long time,” Nail said.

After its debut in October 1999, iWon attracted users by offering cash prizes from $10,000 to $10 million. The company claims to give away $10,000 every day, 30 $1,000 prizes each week, $1 million every month and $10 million on tax day.

Users collect iWon cash points and cash prize entries by clicking on iWon client links. The portal plans to debut iWon Rewards Store in the spring.

Nielsen//NetRatings reported in January that iWon is the fifth-most-trafficked site on the Web. Media Metrix reports that the Web site ranks first in average days, pages and minutes spent per user.

The company has not revealed the size of its database.

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