CareerBuilder Ads: Less Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys

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By: Jennifer Saba

For those wondering, last night’s Super Bowl debut of CareerBuilder’s TV ads was greeted with mostly ho-hum reactions from ad critics across the country.

Of course, so were most of the ads, not just those for Gannett, Knight Ridder, and Tribune’s online job site. This year’s ad climate — where agencies had the fear of God put into them lest they do anything deemed even slightly inappropriate — was blamed for tepid creative that fell back on old themes. That meant the use of fading stars like MC Hammer, Burt Reynolds, and Dennis Rodman (with the rare and weird exception of Brad Pitt shilling Heineken), and animals galore.

But CareerBuilder was certainly no exception. Three different spots kicked off its $200 million branding campaign, and they all played on the same gag — that corporate America is run by a bunch of monkeys. There’s a lone human among a conference full of primates who must endure their ape-like behavior in various ways. In one spot, a chimp bends over allowing the other chimp to kiss its, um, derriere; in another spot a whoopee cushion is employed at the expense of the human worker.

Stuart Elliott in The New York Times pegged the CareerBuilder spots as a “yawn,” saying that the company reached for “the lowest common denominator” when featuring “mischievous monkeys dressed as office workers.”

The Wall Street Journal called the effort an “expensive fumble.” The story quotes John Staffen, an executive creative director at Havas SA’s Arnold New York, saying, “They might as well have used goldfish. You can’t go wrong with monkeys, but they did.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Chris Dufresne put the spots in his “five that left me flat” category explaining that “I believe I have laughed all I can laugh at chimps who dress up as humans.”

Maybe CareerBuilder can take consolation in the fact that all three spots ranked among the top 10 in USA Today’s most popular Super Bowl ads poll, perhaps making monkeys out of the critics.

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