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HotJobs adjusts message to the times

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(Last in a series of Executive Outlooks)

Marc Karasu has been HotJobs.com’s VP-advertising for nearly three years. The centerpiece of the company’s marketing program has been its annual Super Bowl spot, which has put it head-to-head with competing online recruitment site Monster.com. But while HotJobs will make its fifth consecutive Super Bowl appearance on Jan. 26, the focal point of the company’s marketing has changed. Now, HotJobs’ advertising and marketing revolves around its affiliation with Yahoo! Inc., which bought the company in early 2002. Karasu explains his take on the economic outlook for 2003, and how HotJobs leverages its connection with Yahoo!

BtoB: How will you approach the Super Bowl this year?

Karasu: In the past our Super Bowl spots have tended to be light hearted. There’s nothing wrong with humor, but in an economy like this, people are more worried about their jobs. It does need to be treated as an important topic rather than having an element of slapstick to it in the form of pie-in-the-face type of advertising.

BtoB: How do you expect the economy to affect your business in 2003?

Karasu: In times of unemployment and lack of job security, we see an increase in traffic. We’ve also seen an increase with traffic from Yahoo!, which bought us last year. There are 80 million visitors a month to Yahoo! On the check-writer side [businesses searching for employees], our sales have been flat toward increasing. We see an uptick in hiring in 2003 based on health care, government and education industries, which seem to be in an increased state of hiring.

BtoB: How will your marketing and advertising plans be affected by the economy in 2003?

Karasu: We’re significantly outspent by Monster at this point. But based on our research and analysis and tracking, we believe we get a higher value for dollar spent than our competitors in many cases. We’re at a point where we’ve built a recognized and trusted brand, so we have some leeway to take some spending out of branding. We need to stay fresh and top of mind, but we can take that money and funnel it into more trackable direct marketing on the corporate side. Once you’ve established that brand, you have an opportunity to talk on a tactical level.

BtoB: What specifically do expect to do in 2003 to reach your corporate customers?

Karasu: We’ve been doing e-mail marketing for over a year now. We may be doing more robust e-mail in how we track that and who we’re reaching. We’re also doing traditional direct mail.

And as we roll out new products based on further integration with Yahoo, we can leverage those tools as further evidence of how you can empower yourself through HotJobs. As we’re imbued with more robust search technology that’s going to be a big differentiator.

BtoB: In what other ways do you expect Yahoo! to help your marketing efforts?

Karasu: It’s not just about banners, it’s about really valuable homepage placement on Yahoo. Now, being owned by them, we’re able to pull on all their resources. It gives us that much more traction to build on not just in marketing or advertising but especially in technology and product development.

--Interviewed by Sean Callahan

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