Since last year's Super Bowl, 2.6 million people have lost their jobs, and the workplace downsizing is expected to continue well past the Feb. 1 game.
So how do you advertise an online job site, particularly when there are fewer jobs on it, without alienating the armchair quarterbacks who see the game as an escape from the uncertainties of Monday morning?
If you're Monster Worldwide Inc. and CareerBuilder.com, you use humor and perhaps a Speedo - but don't promise a job.
Neither company is a newcomer to the big game, and both say the exposure, which comes with a price tag of as much as $3 million for 30 seconds, can't be beat. But like the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XLIII will mark the first time the rivals have gone head-to-head in the widely watched sporting event. Each site is striking a defiantly confident pose, boasting that it doesn't matter what the other does.
"I don't think we've spent more than 47 seconds thinking about it," said Richard Castellini, CareerBuilder's chief marketing officer.
But the realities of the economic environment have caused both companies to heavily research how funny they can be during a recession. One of CareerBuilder's Super Bowl executions last year, of a heart that crawled up on the boss' desk with an "I quit" sign, likely wouldn't resonate well in an environment where people are thankful to have jobs.
"There's nothing funny about being out of a job," said John Greening, formerly an executive vice president at DDB Needham who led several Budweiser campaigns. "The reason you do funny is funny is memorable. They can still be very entertaining, but they don't have to make the joke at the expense of the unemployed."
Monster is back in the game for the first time since 2004, largely to tout its redesigned Web site and to promote a multiyear sponsorship deal with the National Football League.
The company is finalizing two commercials, including a fourth-quarter ad similar to one that made its debut during the Golden Globes, in which a terrified construction worker inches across a beam on his stomach, despite being only a few feet off the ground. The commercial asks viewers, "Are you in the right job?"
The campaign, from BBDO Worldwide, follows research Monster did with 400 people nationally to make sure a funny ad still could be tasteful. "If someone is out of a job, the last thing we wanted to do was offend someone," said Ted Gilvar, Monster's chief marketing officer. Overwhelmingly, people said they viewed the Super Bowl as a time to "kick back and relax," he said.
For CareerBuilder, its fifth consecutive Super Bowl appearance will introduce a campaign highlighting career advice.
One Wieden+Kennedy-developed spot that will run as either a 30- or 60-second commercial in the third quarter features a montage showing reasons a person might need a new job, like if the co-worker next to you is a Speedo-wearing toe-picker. The message, that it might be hard to know when you need a job, is a deviation from CareerBuilder's previous campaigns.
Chicago-based CareerBuilder is partially owned by Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune.
Derek Rucker, a marketing professor at Northwestern University, said CareerBuilder has a lot riding on this year's game, given Monster's appearance.
"You don't want Monster to do a better job than you and become associated with the Super Bowl," Rucker said.
Talking up other parts of the job sites makes sense strategically because job postings aren't exactly a growth industry.
Job vacancies advertised online declined in December to 3.9 million, their lowest level in 2 1/2 years, according to the Conference Board.
Nevertheless, both companies have seen traffic to their sites spike, according to ComScore Inc. Last month, CareerBuilder had 17 million unique visitors, a 23 percent increase from December 2007. During the same year-over-year period, traffic to Monster's site was up 4 percent, to 14.1 million unique visitors.
Monster, CareerBuilder going head-to-head with Super Bowl ads
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