NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ted Gilvar joined job site Monster about a year and a half ago from BBDO, where he oversaw Monster's ad business as exec VP-senior director. It was his first time going from an agency to the client side in his 21 years in advertising.
But the chance to be exec VP-chief global marketing officer of Monster Worldwide was just that attractive. "I developed a relationship with Monster's CEO [Sal Iannuzzi]. He'd been looking for a CMO and I'd been helping him find candidates, and after searching for a while, he asked me if I wanted to come over," Mr. Gilvar said. "I had some blue-chip accounts [such as the NFL, Target and Guinness] and was pretty happy at BBDO at the time, but ultimately the chance to be a CMO at a global company when it was clear that jobs were going to be on everyone's radar, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
As CMO, Mr. Gilvar oversees a global marketing budget of about $250 million, the largest percentage of which is spent on digital. A veteran Super Bowl advertiser that also will be advertising in this year's big game, according to Mr. Gilvar, Monster also has been undertaking large-scale initiatives such as its search for the next "Director of Fandemonium," a promotion with the NFL to identify, recognize and reward football's biggest fan; and the Keep America Working tour, a year-long, nationwide, multi-city job fair.
Clearly, social media is transforming the job-search process, arguably creating a threat to traditional job boards. But Monster is not shying away from its competition; rather, Mr. Gilvar said, it's leveraging it. In a recent interview with Ad Age, Mr. Gilvar talked about his own transition to CMO, the brand-building initiatives he's been focused on and how the recession could be a unique opportunity for Monster -- if it can find people jobs in this environment.
Ad Age: So how has the transition been from agency executive to CMO?
Mr. Gilvar: It's been great. It's been a challenging time to move over. I'm feeling the same as every other CMO these days, in terms of pressure of trying to do more with less, but by the same token, because Monster is the world leading brand in the world of employment, and employment has obviously been on the minds of everyone in the way it hasn't been in quite some time, it's given us an opportunity to do some innovative things, like our NFL promotion and our Keep America Working tour. We created this program from scratch last November, launched it in January, and the count is now up to about 90 stops across the country. And the story's been the same: There are a lot of people in need of help, and Monster's here to help. We decided this year to give away participation to any employer that had open positions to come and participate for free. And we provided state-of-the-art advice tips, career advice, a kit to walk away with to help them with their job search. We've earned more than 600 million unpaid media impressions across the country from doing this. So by being in the eye of the hurricane in the job market, it's allowed us to do something like that.
Ad Age: What did you have to learn on the job?
Mr. Gilvar: I had a pretty good big-picture strategy. Some of the things you have to learn is you have to delve into data in a bigger way and into understanding CRM and understand how we mine our existing customer base. There were some tactical things -- for example, once you have the data, how do you mine it to market from it? It isn't that the strategy part of it is hard. It's the tactical stuff I had to learn.
Ad Age: Monster was one of the biggest ad players in the dot-com heyday and has been a fixture in Super Bowls. How much of that heritage are you drawing on in your marketing today?
Mr. Gilvar: It put the brand on a national stage that still exists. People remember that and it logically makes sense to tap into that and take it to the next level.
[With the 'Director of Fandemonium' program] we're trying to build off of the association we have with the NFL and the Super Bowl and engage people throughout the year. We think that's going to take hold in the social-media space and really drive traffic to our site over a much longer period of time.
Ad Age: How is Monster leveraging social media?
Mr. Gilvar: We have Twitter feeds where we're [posting] all of our jobs. We also have Facebook communities specific to our employer side. It's a way to get people engaged in Monster using both Twitter and Facebook. We've done a lot with this Keep America Working tour and put it out there so people can see what's happening on the tour. That's been great content to promote off of the tour itself.
The really interesting news is we're obviously seeing the explosive growth of social media in terms of people using the web, and the big news we have is we purchased a company called Affinity Labs, an incubator of communities. These are a way for people to have a shared passion for what they do and see relevant content, network with each other. We're taking our existing database of customers and inviting them to participate in communities. We've taken basically our largest concentration of where our job seekers are and created these communities around it. We've just integrated that onto our site in the last year. In [the first quarter] of next year we'll be making a much bigger deal about it.
We are dramatically innovating what we offer people because consumer behavior demands that. As the rate of change moves and people are looking for technology to help them, we've used a lot of time innovating, creating really compelling content people can't find anywhere else and ways to search people can't find anywhere else. As we've watched the proliferation of social media, it's created a really flat world and it's incredibly inefficient, so we've created state-of-the-art semantic search. What that does is it gives people the means to really find the exact opportunities they're looking for and vice versa.
Ad Age: Why should someone use Monster to search for a job and/or candidate when they can just use LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter to do so?
Mr. Gilvar: While they are clearly lots of avenues to find jobs in today's digitally expanded world, there is no better place to find great people and great jobs than Monster. We've invested nearly $500 million over the last two years to dramatically improve the functionality of our experience to ensure that our size is not our only competitive advantage.
There's no denying that people can network with other people to find work. Networking as a means of career connection is as old as work itself. Over the past several years lots of new means have popped up that enable people with ways to think about finding a job. But none of these platforms offer the rich career content, the advice and help, the scale of millions of jobs worldwide, nor the means to sift through opportunities to match the right people to the right job that Monster does.
People are finding comfort with LinkedIn, making connections. As people face an uphill road finding work in the current economy, they are taking stock in making connections, whether it leads to a job or not. We believe in the value of connection, too, but we want to create communities where people create professional connections with the people they should know, not just a digital Rolodex of connections extended from the people they already know.