Super Bowl scores job Web site ads

Job boards say game is good fit

By Michael McCarthy,USA TODAY

The rivalry between and is turning into the Coke vs. Pepsi of cyberspace.

As advertisers suit up for the Super Bowl on CBS on Jan. 28, the dot-com marketers that ran wild last year mostly are benched. But not the dueling job boards, rivals again for a third year.

HotJobs announced a buy of one in-game and three pre-game commercials last week. Industry leader Monster beat its smaller rival to the punch by announcing a buy of two in-game and two pre-game spots on Sept. 20.

Typical of fickle dot-com clients, the two will have new ad agencies and campaigns for their latest round. Weiss Stagliano Partners in New York is on HotJobs’ team. Arnold Communications in Boston is making Monster’s ads.

“It’s the Job Board Bowl. It’s not about football, it’s about job searches,” says Richard Johnson, chief executive of HotJobs. “Despite what a lot of other companies might say, the Super Bowl has been a fantastic venue for us,” says Jeff Taylor, CEO of Monster.

What’s behind this cyber war? Pride for one thing. The game may have been a stunt in 1999 when HotJobs gambled half its revenue to buy one spot.

Now, neither side will blink. Once made the move this year, Johnson says he had to be there for the Super Bowl rumble or lose face. “Knowing Monster is already in, what does it say about us if we don’t show up?”

But paying $2.4 million per 30-second spot is a lot of money to save face. Last January’s dot-com bowl was a bust for most of 18 Web companies that spent over $2 million apiece for 30 seconds of glory, experts say.

“They were flash-in-the-pans that wasted their money,” says Lee Kovel, chief creative officer of Kovel/Fuller in Los Angeles, who’s steering his new client, Zicam, away from the game.

But he also blames agencies for not “saving inexperienced clients from themselves.”

“The ad agencies that produced those ego-driven productions and spent millions on ego-driven media buys should be ashamed,” Kovel says.

The two job-search sites argue, however, that the game is a unique fit for them, unlike many other dot-coms:

Reach. Monster and HotJobs are consumer companies, unlike many of the business-to-business Web firms that fell flat in January.

The Super Bowl lets them reach their two target markets at once: job seekers and companies looking to hire. “It’s a way for us to reach 130 million people in 30 seconds,” Taylor says.

Monster says it processed 4.4 million job searches in the 24 hours after the last Super Bowl. HotJobs says new résumés rolled in at a rate of one every 2.4 seconds on Super Sunday.

Timing. The Super Bowl is in January, when many consumers have made New Year’s resolutions to find new work. Many have banked year-end bonuses, freeing them for a job hunt. “The year-end bonuses are done; salaries are done,” says media buyer Tom DeCabia of Schulman/Advanswers in New York. “It’s a great time to change jobs.”

Budgets. The Super Bowl airs in the first fiscal quarter, when many companies are flush with new advertising budgets. In the first quarter of 2000, for example, Johnson says he added 1,800 companies vs. 1,500 in the second. “It’s a great time for advertising recruitment sites. It’s a time of renewal.”

Will we ever see another dot-com ad-dominated game like the last Super Bowl, where Web and tech companies accounted for half of the game’s advertisers? That’s unlikely unless the venture capitalists controlling dot-coms loosen the purse strings again.

But love them or hate them, Taylor still believes the dot-coms made history on Super Bowl XXXIV. “It was the first time where I saw a collective voice of the new economy. It might not happen this year. But in the future, you’ll see the Super Bowl become the platform for the new economy.”