This just in: TV advertising still works

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A scene from Monster's classic 1999 Super Bowl spot 'When I Grow Up.'
A scene from Monster's classic 1999 Super Bowl spot 'When I Grow Up.' Credit: Monster.com

When Jonathan Beamer took over as CMO of Monster nine months ago, he found a brand that, despite "ten years of neglect" from both a product and marketing perspective, "was still one of the strongest in the job search category." He credits this residual strength to Monster's original insight, "that people desperately want fulfilling work," which remains as true today as it was when the brand last turned heads via ads during the 1999 Super Bowl (see "When I Grow Up" in the Ad Age Super Bowl Ad Archive).

Banking on the notion that Monster is a "classic," Beamer is looking to unleash what he describes as "latent favorability." "We know we have a place in people's lives if we pay a little bit more attention to where we lost our way," he explains. This attention now comes in the form of product improvements and good old TV advertising, the channel that helped Monster gain its share of mind in the first place. And while Beamer is deploying TV in a highly targeted way, the takeaway is the same for mass marketers: Big brands still need the big reach that only TV provides.

It's nine months into your role as CMO at Monster. What are you feeling good about?

I have studied a lot of brands. I've never seen brand metrics like Monster's. What I've talked about as latent favorability is, once I remind you that Monster exists, you like it. Nobody has that. It is a huge strength, but people have forgotten about us or even worse, some of our customers have stopped using us. But they're rooting for us. It's this amazing thing with Monster; you see the power of the brand because people are like, "Hey, fix this and I'll come back because I can't wait to repurchase you." That's powerful.

You have this brand with terrific residual value, so what needs to be done from both a message and a tech standpoint?

One of the ways that we took our eye off the ball is with big brand advertising like our 1999 Super Bowl spot. A lot of people remember those ads still. We advertised essentially until 2009, and then we stopped, and we got excited about some of the direct response pure attribution; I spend this, I get this. Meanwhile, we still had tailwinds. We had the wind at our back because we had already invested a bunch of money in the brand. For a long time, we could coast. The problem is when you're just looking at lower funnel attribution, and you're not thinking about keeping those brand metrics strong, you stop investing. It was true in some of the core responsiveness to our technology and in our marketing. Those are the things that we are dedicated now to bringing back and making sure that candidates have an awesome experience. They see their preferences are matched to the best jobs and our customers, therefore, see the best candidates in our product.

It sounds like there were fundamental product experience issues here as well. Not only was your marketing coasting but was the product also coasting?

It's tough to have a great brand without a great product. They go hand in hand, especially for a digital property. The line between product and marketing is blurred for Monster. The other thing I'd point out is this category hasn't been aiming very high. There's been commoditization and job search over the last 20 years, and frankly, the commoditization pivots around the model that Monster created 24 years ago: type in the job that you're looking for and the location you want—.and here's a list of job search results. That's a dumb way to look for a job. That's where I get excited because there's still a tremendous amount of opportunity to fulfill that mission: how do we match the best talent to those opportunities that make sense for that talent? It should be more than searching for a job title.

How do you help drive the process of fixing fundamental aspects of the brand?

The first answer is that I should be the voice of the customer around the table. Again, that customer is twofold: it's the candidate looking for a job, and it's the recruiter looking to fill the position. We have ongoing panels of both of those audiences where we can ask a question, any question overnight and get answers. I've made sure that we're constantly looking at brand tracking results and that we have a steady stream of data coming from real customers and real candidates on how we're perceived in the marketplace.

What's the second answer?

It's a close partnership with our product team to make sure that we are creating insanely helpful experiences. That's one where, in the past, I think it's straightforward because it requires technology to be focused on an element of the journey. Here is the . recommendation engine that matches, let's say, jobs and candidates. It's one rendering of a page on a journey; something upstream of that made that candidate come to Monster that day. Something downstream of that is a candidate potentially applying to that job being nervous about whether they're going to qualify and get the interview. It is a straightforward transaction where a lot of time spent. We must understand how small a portion of the overall journey it is. That's a lot of where I think marketing is core and fundamental. It's to make sure that we are bringing the bigger perspective of the journey that our audiences are going through.

What channels have you been using to promote the revitalization of Monster?

We're back on TV since April 2018 which I'm proud of because we should be, and it has been a productive channel for us in the past, and the broad reach nature of our product enables TV to work for us. Those ads are simple; we can do a lot in 15 seconds to remind people, "hey on your mobile device, Monster will show you a bunch of jobs." So, if you had a bad day at work, download the app. Those are the types of things that marketing doesn't have to create long-form content for on the candidate side.

I can't tell you how many times it made me cringe in the last ten years when people say TV was dead, but it's still clearly a mass channel.

Absolutely. I was at Progressive for four years, and there are few TV advertisers as big as Progressive. I competed against it a lot in digital. I've recommended against TV for a large portion of my career at Digitas. I can dispassionately look at the data at Monster and say this is absolutely where we need to be. Now having said that, we need to do it smartly. I also used the TV in a very targeted way at Solar City where we only wanted high credit homeowners. Now you're in a place where you get your IP targeting and that video is ideally showing up on the living room TV when people are relaxing and receptive to a message. That's a very different form because you're willing to pay high CPMs because you must be targeted. At Monster, we are released a little bit from that targeting because of the ubiquity of the product, which is the same as car insurance or beer, or financial services. Things that every household has.

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