Job-hunting Web sites' ads will compete at Super Bowl Online world's version of the cola fights gears up

By Rachel Emma Silverman and Suzanne Vranica

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and TMP Worldwide’s, two Internet job-hunting sites, are gearing up for Super Bowl XXXV in the online world’s version of the cola fights.

BOTH SITES HAVE ADVERTISED during the two previous Super Bowls in a bid to create brand recognition and drive people to their sites. Now, having gained some understanding of how brands are built and the role the Super Bowl can play, both companies are launching directing-marketing campaigns to bolster their expensive TV commercials.

Hotjobs has paid $2.4 million for four Super Bowl ads one 30-second commercial during the game and three pregame spots. Monster is spending less than $4 million to air four ads two in the pregame and two during the game. Richard Johnson, Hotjobs president and chief executive, says the slowing economy may provide more impetus for companies to hire his agency, which is why the Super Bowl ads are critical. Potential clients, he says, are more likely to ask themselves why they should pay ’25 percent of a first-year salary’ to a headhunter when they instead could go to and do it themselves.

Hotjobs also figures it is in a battle for the hearts and minds of all job hunters and that Monster is its major online competitor. Hotjobs doesn’t want to give up Super Bowl advertising if Monster is going to have plenty of visibility. Debby Goldberg, director of marketing at Interbrand, a branding firm owned by Omnicom Group, says the two brands need to ‘differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace and beat out the other guy.’

While both firms are battling for brand recognition, Monster has deeper pockets. That may explain why Jeff Taylor, Monster’s founder and chief executive, prefers to play down any rivalry.

‘The only place where this is a competitive platform is actually on the Super Bowl and that is only because you can buy your way there,’ he says.

In the Hotjobs Super Bowl commercial, a silver click-click gravity ball that swings on a string rolls off an employee’s desk. As viewers hear the group The Mamas and the Papas singing ‘Go Where You Want to Go,’ the ball joins a game of marbles being played in a park. The ad suggests viewers can ‘control their own destinies and follow their own optimistic dream,’ Mr. Johnson says. The tagline: ‘Onward. Upward.’

Hotjobs also has created a video-game version of its commercials that enables users to guide the runaway silver ball through a maze. Users can e-mail the Hotjobs-branded game to friends.

The two Monster Super Bowl commercials are being kept a secret until the big game. But the company says they feature ‘important moments in someone’s work’ life such as getting a raise. The company’s icon, a big-mouthed creation called ‘Trump,’ is expected to appear at the end of the commercials in a speaking role. The ads show that ‘when your work life is going well, it impacts your overall life,’ says Peter Blacklow, senior vice president of marketing for Monster. The tagline: ‘Job Good. Life Good.’

Monster plans to illuminate buildings in Tampa this year’s Super Bowl host city with the Trump icon’s image. Trump stickers also will appear on sidewalks in the area. A bright orange blimp will float overhead.

Monster’s TV advertising has been uneven. Its first Super Bowl commercial, which featured children talking cynically about what they wanted to be when they grow up, was a hit. Last year, its Super Bowl commercial featured people streaming down a street as a narrator recited a Robert Frost poem. Many found it boring.

The company rebounded this past fall with some clever Olympic commercials featuring Ted, a fictional character who uses Monster’s site. French agency Havas Advertising’s Arnold Worldwide is creating the new Monster campaign.

Hotjobs’ first Super Bowl commercial was rejected by News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting because of taste issues. The advertising that ran in its place a security guard finding a better job created some excitement. Its second Super Bowl commercial featured the familiar icon of a hand with a pointing index finger that appears on computer screens when the regular cursor alights on a Web link. The spot wasn’t well received.

Hotjobs has hired Weiss Stagliano Partners, New York, in a bid to score big this time.

And a lot is at stake. In acknowledging how stressful the Super Bowl commercial experience has become, Mr. Johnson of Hotjobs says the process makes ‘going public seem like taking a vacation.’