Monster.com not afraid of spending in down economy

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With the economy drooping, dot-coms in tatters and mainstream marketers pulling back, Monster.com keeps cranking.

As it revs 2002 marketing plans, the country's leading online job site will leave ad dollars and number of commercials constant, though ads will be more inspirational and less jocular, said Peter Blacklow, senior VP-marketing for Monster.com. Monster paid more than $10 million to be part of the 17-day Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and it's negotiating fees with News Corp.'s Fox for its fourth Super Bowl.

"The economy is not going to be struggling forever. This is a time to spend, not pull back," Mr. Blacklow said.

Monster's spending in the first half exceeded that of the comparable period last year. The brand invested $37.4 million in measured media through June compared with $28.7 million in the first half of 2000 and $58.8 million for the entire year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Mr. Blacklow said Monster's first-quarter spending will be in line with previous years.

As flagship for the Maynard, Mass.-based TMP Worldwide, Monster provided $144.8 million of the company's third-quarter commissions and fees of $361.2 million. Monster's third-quarter revenue-which accounts for 40% of TMP's total-rose 37% from $105.5 million in the third quarter of 2000.

With October's national unemployment rate at 5.4%, the highest since December 1996, Monster may falter temporarily, said Michael Beebe, advertising and marketing services analyst at Goldman Sachs. He said Sept. 11 and the ensuing wave of layoffs will be felt through March. Mr. Blacklow said Monster hopes to earn money from job seekers through supplemental services, though there are no plans to charge a fee to post a resume or search for a job.

The company wants the campaign, breaking in early January, to build brand awareness. The campaign pivots on the "Never Settle" concept that Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide, Boston, pitched to win the account in September 2000.

The ad mix will remain static among TV, print and other venues, though online spending may be a bit higher because of November's multi-year partnership with Microsoft Corp.'s MSN on top of a four-year, $100 million partnership with America Online.

Monster has outlasted several job sites, and TMP Worldwide in June agreed to buy HotJobs.com. The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the deal, which TMP expects to close by March. Mr. Blacklow said the plan is to keep both brands alive. TMP stock last week hovered in the $40 range, about half its 52-week high of $71.88.

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