No Free Ads for CareerBuilder After Pantsless Ad Pairing

Here's Hoping This Unusual Situation Doesn't Repeat Itself

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NEW YORK ( -- CBS is hoping to zip up a controversy over two ads featuring pantsless people that aired back-to-back during its broadcast of the Super Bowl.

A pair of pantsless ads: Careerbuilder's 'Casual Friday' (top) and Dockers' 'Men Without Pants' (bottom).
A pair of pantsless ads: Careerbuilder's 'Casual Friday' (top) and Dockers' 'Men Without Pants' (bottom).
Neither CareerBuilder nor Dockers was particularly pleased when CBS ran their Super Bowl commercials, both revolving around people without pants, one right after the other, possibly confusing viewers in the process. After Ad Age reported that CBS rewarded Levi, Strauss & Co.'s Dockers with free ad time, CareerBuilder said it was engaged in discussions with CBS as well. Now, despite the discussions, CareerBuilder says it does not expect to benefit from a similar arrangement, and is frustrated by that outcome.

The Super Bowl is "the focal point of commercial advertising," said Richard Castellini, chief marketing officer of CareerBuilder, in an interview. "You would think that as much due diligence and as much pre-thought-out placement and trafficking would be given to this as possible, and it just doesn't seem like that was the case."

The whole situation is decidedly unorthodox. TV networks routinely try to separate ads that might clash. Commercials from Pepsi and Coca-Cola never appear either next to each other or even in the same ad break, while marketers such as General Motors have in the past demanded that their ads not run near those from any other sector rival.

But keeping ads with similar creative themes apart would pose a thornier challenge to many TV outlets. For one thing, many commercials use well-worn concepts -- the unsatisfied housewife, for example, or the befuddled husband. Having to keep these types of ads separate would add a layer of scrutiny that networks might not be ready to handle.

Dockers received three 30-second ads in the network's broadcast of the NCAA men's basketball tournament now underway, according to two people familiar with the situation. CBS has declined to comment on whether it gave Dockers the ad time. A Dockers marketing executive told Ad Age the company was "somewhat disappointed" with the placement of its Super Bowl ad, but did not comment on what arrangement had been worked out with CBS.

CareerBuilder executives said they were told by CBS that, since their ad ran first, and because CareerBuilder also received a "billboard," or on-air mention and display of their logo during the Super Bowl broadcast, the network did not feel any sort of extra compensation was warranted.

Yet they believe the placement of the ad damaged its potential to make an impression on viewers. "There is an issue that might lead to some brand confusion," said Mr. Castellini. "You would think they'd discuss it ahead of time and see if there's [a reason for] an appropriate movement of inventory."

"We believe CareerBuilder got excellent value for their Super Bowl ad," CBS said in a statement. "Until recently, we thought they agreed. We are sorry to hear they do not." CBS's broadcast of the Super Bowl was the highest-rated program in history, surpassing the 1983 broadcast of the series finale of "M*A*S*H."

Another point of distinction that may have played a role in how the two trouser-less advertisers were treated: CareerBuilder negotiates its own media prices and placements, while Dockers makes use of Omnicom Group's OMD. The "thunder" of the big ad-buying firm "would be able to get CBS's attention a little bit more than an advertiser dealing directly with the accounts team," said Cynthia McIntyre, senior director-advertising, at CareerBuilder. "But all in all, we pay money just like every single advertiser," she added. OMD also handles media duties for CBS.

For now, CareerBuilder may simply have to place its focus on next year's Super Bowl, slated to air on News Corp.'s Fox. The online jobs site has advertised in the Super Bowl steadily since 2005, though executives said they are still mulling whether to advertise in next year's gridiron event.

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