CareerBuilder Wrecks a Good Thing Over Poll in 'USA Today'

Cramer-Krasselt Scored Top Marks One Week; the Next It Was Being Reviewed

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Cramer-Krasselt was asked to make CareerBuilder "famous," and, by pretty much any measure you care to use, the agency did just that. By the Chicago shop's reckoning, it helped the job site overtake Monster.com to become a market leader, nearly doubled its share of the online recruitment business and grew sales exponentially.
The ad that didn't make 'USA Today's' top 10.
The ad that didn't make 'USA Today's' top 10.
Together agency and marketer won a number of awards for their chimp-centric campaigns.

So you can imagine how stunned the agency was when, late last week, CareerBuilder's VP-consumer marketing, Richard Castellini, walked into its office and told a team of C-K's senior managers that he was calling an agency review because the shop's Super Bowl offerings hadn't made it into the top 10 in USA Today's poll about the commercials. At least, that's how agency CEO Peter Krivkovich tells the story, and CareerBuilder, despite repeated requests, didn't want to comment.

'We trust America'
"Just a week earlier, he'd told us our performance report card would be at 100%," Mr. Krivkovich said. "He said USA Today is 'America's poll, and we trust America.' It seems all our insights, business results and ad awards mean nothing compared to a poll featuring 238 people from two states. There are a few times in your life when you have to tell someone to f-- off and mean it."

Cramer-Krasselt resigned the account on the spot rather than partake in the $60 million review as incumbent.

A spokeswoman for CareerBuilder confirmed the resignation and review but wouldn't elaborate.

The split followed a shift in campaigns at CareerBuilder, which rode its popular "Office Monkeys" for two years, an effort that spawned the Monk-e-Mail viral website that drew 13 million unique visitors.

For this year's Super Bowl, however, the marketer changed course, airing a series of high-concept spots set in a jungle in which meetings and attempts at promotions are viewed as potentially lethal hazards.

Lukewarm response
Lukewarm critical response followed -- the spots got three stars from Advertising Age and finished 16th and 27th in the USA Today poll.

There were positive metrics throughout the partnership, as CareerBuilder grew from the No. 3 job site to No. 1 during C-K's five-year run, although, as always, there's debate about how much advertising had to do with the brand's performance.

According to Morningstar analyst James Walden, CareerBuilder -- backed by the three largest U.S. newspaper publishers, including Gannett which owns USA Today -- had a built-in advantage over Monster because of its local-paper alliances. "Still," Mr. Walden said, "there's no question that they've done a very good job at building brand awareness."

Memo to staff
But according to a memo sent by Mr. Krivkovich to staffers, the mediocre showing in the USA Today AdMeter overshadowed that track record. "It's so ludicrious (sic.) and they are so serious about that poll it's almost funny," he wrote.

But it's not likely C-K is laughing. Losing one of its most visible accounts is not the follow-up the No. 5 independent envisioned in the wake of 23% revenue growth during 2006, its largest ever. Last year, C-K won creative duties for Corona beer, and it also landed midsize accounts such as Yellow Pages publisher R.H. Donnelley and Key Bank.
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