Monster, CareerBuilder plan TV Super Bowl ads

The nation's two largest online job-listing companies will again go head-to-head on the biggest advertising stage — the Super Bowl — for strong field position in these tough economic times.

Monster Worldwide mww announced this week it will return after a four-year hiatus for a Big Game TV ad battle Feb. 1 with Super Bowl regular CareerBuilder (jointly owned by Tribune, McClatchy, Microsoft and USA TODAY parent Gannett).

Monster is ramping up marketing as the U.S. jobless rate was at a 14-year high of 6.5% in October.

While that rate is bringing lots of job hunters to and, it is not necessarily boosting the fortunes of the job sites.

That's because job seekers use both Monster and CareerBuilder services for free — it's employers who pay to post job listings. Cash-strapped employers who are cutting jobs these days have few or no openings to post.

Monster's revenue growth will remain "challenged" as many of its big clients — such as financial services, retail, manufacturing and construction companies — deal with revenue troubles of their own, CFO Tim Yates said during its Oct. 30 third-quarter conference call. "We are well aware of the weakness in the global job market, and none of us knows the depth and length of this recession."

CareerBuilder, which has "seen a decline in the listing volume," is targeting a "dual audience" of both job seekers and employers with its upcoming Super Bowl XLIII commercials, says Richard Castellini, chief marketing officer. While the ads will help its sales force sign up more employers, CareerBuilder also "needs to make sure (it) has brand awareness with job seekers," he says. "Our job is to always make sure we have enough traffic to properly funnel to our employers' jobs."

Monster is also trying to reach both groups with its Super Bowl ad buy — and to tout a website revamping that cost "several hundred million dollars," according to CEO Sal Iannuzzi. The site's redo, launching Jan. 10, includes advanced search tools and better ability to upload résumés.

The overhaul will be promoted in Super Bowl advertising, as well as in marketing leading up to the game and through a new three-year deal to be the "official career services sponsor" of the NFL.

Neither company would say what they spent for Super Bowl ad time, but NBC says it is selling some 30-second slots for as much as $3 million.

Castellini says CareerBuilder's Super Bowl spending over the past four years has been "effective," while Iannuzzi says the 2009 game is a great platform for Monster to hype its new website.

"It's expensive," Iannuzzi says. " But given the investment we've done in the past 15 months or so (on the site), we feel it's worth it. We need to get the word out that there really is a new Monster."