Super Bowl ad rematch

Dot coms try to score

By Katherine Hobson

The turf is ready. The players are pumped. The playbooks are set. NFC vs. AFC? Nope. It’s another persistent Super Bowl rivalry: the ad war between online employment companies and

For the third straight Super Bowl, Monster and HotJobs will square off with new campaigns. Their decision to advertise puts them at odds with the current wisdom, that spending big on championship ads is about the most inane thing a dot com could do. Last year, 17 dot coms ran spots; most have seen their share prices plummet and two are no more. So this year, it’s down to these two–Monster paid about $4 million for bowl and pregame ads, while HotJobs anted up $2.4 million for its spots–plus online broker E*Trade.

Touchdown. The companies say the exposure justifies the expense. “It’s the only program in the whole year where advertising is the program,” says Monster’s CEO, Jeff Taylor. “I’d have to run an ad seven additional times to get the same focus that an ad gets in the Super Bowl.” Both saw big increases in site traffic after previous years’ ads. HotJobs and Monster say the timing of the Super Bowl makes an ad for them about as natural as one for beer: January is job-hunting season, says Marc Karasu, HotJobs’ advertising director.

The stakes for these companies aren’t as high as they were two years ago, when HotJobs CEO Richard Johnson mortgaged his home to finance a slot. Monster’s parent, TMP Worldwide, is profitable, and HotJobs estimates it will be by the end of this year. Both have new ad game plans for this year, too. Arnold Communications is handling Monster’s spots, one of which has the tag line “Job Good. Life Good.” And Weiss Stagliano Partners has designed one spot for HotJobs set to the crooning of the Mamas and the Papas’ “Go Where You Wanna Go,” which follows the journey of a gravity ball as it “escapes the office environment.” Who knows how many dot coms will wanna go to the Super Bowl next year?