The Game Plan? Returning to What Works

New York Times
Stuart Elliott
January 13, 2011

A popular Super Bowl campaign is being revived, although it never really went away.

Confused? You will not be, the executives at the job-search Web site CareerBuilder hope, after watching a commercial that the company plans to run on Feb. 6 during Super Bowl XLV on Fox Broadcasting. The commercial revives characters that appeared in well-received spots the company ran during the 2005 and 2006 Super Bowls.

Those spots featured a hapless office drone whose co-workers are chimpanzees, thus likening a bad job to dealing with idiots. The spots brought to life the theme of the CareerBuilder campaign at that time, "A better job awaits."

As part of that campaign, CareerBuilder teamed with a digital agency, Oddcast, to introduce an e-mail service called Monk-e-mail, which enables computer users to send messages featuring customized images of "talking" chimpanzees.

The peak for Monk-e-mail came in April 2006, when there were more than 4.4 million visits in 30 days. People continue to use it, the company reports, with hundreds of thousands of visits tallied each quarter; 20 percent of all visits have occurred after 2008.

"We are up to 160 million total messages being sent," said Cynthia McIntyre, vice president for marketing and communications at CareerBuilder in Chicago.

After the 2005 and 2006 commercials, CareerBuilder and its creative agency, Cramer-Krasselt, switched Super Bowl gears, running a spot in 2007 with a "Survivor"-style theme. When it did not perform as well as its predecessors in the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter - a closely watched gauge of the power of Super Bowl pitches - CareerBuilder placed its account in review, prompting Cramer-Krasselt to resign.

Another agency, Wieden & Kennedy, produced the CareerBuilder commercials for the 2008 and 2009 Super Bowls, which had plots without primates or survivors. The company's spot last year, featuring pantsless workers, was created by a consumer.

After all that, it is "a natural to come back to a campaign that made such a strong emotional connection with job-seekers and corporate customers," said Matt Ferguson, chief executive of CareerBuilder, which is owned by the Gannett Company, McClatchy, Microsoft and the Tribune Company.

"People come up to me all the time and say, 'I got a Monk-e-mail,' " he added.

The Super Bowl is a popular ad venue for job-search Web sites like CareerBuilder and because the game is played near the beginning of the year, when people often consider changing employers.

The struggling economy means the job market is "not as good as we'd like it to be," Mr. Ferguson said, but it "is getting better," making the Super Bowl "the right place to be" for CareerBuilder.

Richard Castellini, chief marketing officer at CareerBuilder, said the original campaign resonated so strongly because "people can relate to working with difficult co-workers."

"When you hear time and time again, 'We love that campaign; can you tell us more about it?,' we would be foolish not to revisit it," he added.

Mr. Ferguson and the marketing executives at CareerBuilder are mum for now on details of how the coming commercial, created internally, will revive the chimpanzees. The commercial will run 30 seconds and appear in the third quarter of the game.

They are, however, sharing details of how Oddcast is reworking Monk-e-mail for 2011 to include social sharing features and 3-D images.

"The monkeys will be jumping around, delivering the messages," said Adi Sideman, chief executive at Oddcast in New York. "It's bringing Monk-e-mail into the 21st century."

There will also be a new element, a Monk-e-maker, that allows users to transform photographs of their friends into simians.

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