By Brian Steinberg
CareerBuilder is calling an end to its Super Bowl monkeyshines.
The career-services website, which has been a member of the Super Bowl ad roster since 2005 and has used chimpanzee-themed commercials to make its mark, is taking a break from the game, a company spokeswoman said. "We’re sitting this one out," said Jennifer Grasz, VP-corporate communications, at the company, in response to a query from Advertising Age. "The Super Bowl has been a good investment for us over the years. We decided to pursue other marketing opportunities this year, not only promoting the CareerBuilder brand, but also specific products and differentiators."
As to whether the company may return in the future, she said, "Not sure when, but it’s definitely a consideration. "
Though it may not be the largest advertiser on the Big Game roster, CareerBuilder created some fan favorites — and controversies — during its Super Bowl tenure.
It all started in 2005, when CareerBuilder advertised in the Super Bowl for the first time as other online-jobs sites — Monster.com and Hotjobs — were ending their association with the event. Viewers may well recall several CareerBuilder Super Bowl ads crafted by independent Cramer-Krasselt that showed chimpanzees running roughshod over a corporate office with one very dejected human employee. The conclusion: CareerBuilder could help you escape from having to work with a bunch of monkeys.
Indeed, the ads proved so successful that when CareerBuilder didn’t use them, the company heard feedback from fans demanding that the creatures return. In 2007, after running ads showing teams of competitors clad in outfits made of office supplies, which generated less favorable reaction, CareerBuilder terminated its relationship with C-K and went its own way. It cited negative reaction in a long-running "Ad Meter" Super Bowl poll run by USA Today.
But even the chimps started to wear out their welcome. By 2011, CareerBuilder was running afoul of activist groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Center for Great Apes. The company, owned by publishers Gannett, Tribune and McClatchy Co., said the animals were treated well and left unharmed. And while eighteen large ad agencies said they would no longer produce ads with live chimps, who critics suggested were harmed by their participation in the production of the commercials, the company soldiered on with advertising created in-house.
It’s hard to discern whether CBS broadcasting this year’s Super Bowl contest had any influence on CareerBuilder’s decision. In 2010, CBS aired CareerBuilder’s ad — which showed office workers wearing underwear rather than pants and shirt — adjacent to a commercial for Levi, Strauss & Co’s Dockers, which depicted men traipsing about a field without their britches. Both companies howled, suggesting that viewers would be confused over which ad came from whom, owing to the similar creative theme.
CBS awarded Levi, Strauss & Co. some "make-good" time — three 30-second ads in the network’s broadcast of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that year — to make up for the gaffe. But CareerBuilder, whose ad aired first and who also received an on-air call out during the Super Bowl, was told by the network that no additional compensation was warranted.
One thing is for certain: Without CareerBuilder in the ads surrounding this year’s game, Super Bowl ad fans may have fewer things to talk about.