A Tough Job for Tough Times


Given the dire economic climate, the home audience for this year's Super Bowl likely included a robust number of unemployed workers. So it was curious that the two companies that stood to gain most from this unfortunate fact -- and -- seemed to drop the ball when it came to attracting them.

Strategically, both companies chose humorous ads that focused on workers unhappy in their jobs and ignored the increasingly dismal employment climate. Post-game, the blogo-sphere was buzzing about the tone-deaf nature of the ads, and several headhunters contacted by Adweek noted the curious lack of engagement with those currently on the hunt for work.

The CareerBuilder spot, "Tips," from Wieden + Kennedy -- which launched the site's new campaign -- notes that "maybe it's time" for a new job and lists the signs, e.g, screaming before work or being forced to sit by a toe-picking co-worker.

Monster's spot, "Doubletake," from BBDO New York-tagline, "Your calling is calling"-features two people who share an office wall. On one side, an executive in a posh office sits underneath a mounted moose head; on the other, a sad sack sits below the same moose's backside. On-screen copy asks, "Need a new job? We can help."

Susan Friedman, founder of advertising headhunting company Susan Friedman Ltd., says, "Funny doesn't fit our economic problem. [Unemployment] is a very big issue and these were wonderful opportunities to address it." The sites, she adds, would have been better off making a more emotional appeal to establish a relationship that builds confidence and trust.

"I don't know how much of a sense of humor people have about [job searches] right now," says Jim Scholfield, svp at Rand Thompson Consultants. "I have an appreciation of the ads from a creative standpoint, but we're working with a shell-shocked group of people. They're hungry for information, not a cute ad."

Both CareerBuilder and Monster marketing executives say they decided to stick with humor because that's what works best on the Super Bowl. And in depressing times, they add, people would rather laugh than cry.

Richard Castellini, CMO of, says the company has traditionally relied on humor in its advertising and while certainly aware of the current climate, its data showed that comedy would remain king. "Our research has shown us that looking for a job is a difficult endeavor," he says. "Knowing that is the case [people] want to be made aware of [employment resources] in a lighthearted manner. ... We found that people want to laugh now more so than they have in other recent times."

In terms of buzz, he adds, the site had 25 percent more unique visitors post-game this year than it did post-game in 2008.

Continue to next page →