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Tech Industry

Online recruiters kick off Super Bowl ads

The spots are pricey, but some job sites find it hard to ignore their wide reception. Others are taking a pass on TV, but are placing ads on Bowl-oriented Web sites

Amazon.com may be the biggest brand on the Internet, but online job sites are spending big money this Super Bowl weekend to attract a consumer who most likely hasn't ever searched for a job online: Joe Six-Pack.

The advertisements that air during the Super Bowl are as eagerly anticipated as the game itself. Last year, about 130 million people watched the game, many with an intense interest in the ads, which companies use to launch brands and kick off new campaigns.

This year, Internet recruiting sites are banking on Super Bowl ads to rocket them out of obscurity. HotJobs.com, an 80-employee startup, is plunking down $2 million, almost half of its 1998 revenues, on a single, 30-second ad to air in the third quarter of the game. Monster.com, launched earlier this month after the merger of The Monster Board and Online Career Center, will broadcast its ad during the Fox Network's pre-game show and during the second and fourth quarters.

For companies like IBM and Anheuser-Busch, which is paying $20 million for 10 commercial spots during the game, the Super Bowl is important but represents a mere drop in the bucket of its total advertising budget. But on the Internet, creating a successful brand name is "like the lottery," said Richard Johnson, CEO of HotJobs.com. "We wanted to buy the biggest lottery ticket we could."

Less well-heeled online recruiters such as HeadHunter.Net are capitalizing on the attention HotJobs' Super Bowl ad buy has brought to the category. HeadHunter.Net will step up its marketing efforts on the Internet this weekend to kick off a two-week "blitz." The company will run ads on Yahoo, Lycos, GeoCities, America Online, Excite and Alta Vista, so that when the HotJobs and Monster.com ads drive people online, the first thing they'll see is a HeadHunter.Net banner.

The Super Bowl is also a chance to reach out to a broader audience of job seekers. Most jobs listed online seek professionals, particularly in the technology and finance industries. But that market is becoming saturated, according to Linda Marquis, a spokeswoman for HeadHunter.Net.

"The next wave of users is discovering the Internet at home or at school," Marquis said. "That's the market that the Super Bowl advertisements are educating."

According to Forrester Research, employment is one of the fastest-growing categories among online classified ads, projected to growth from $105 million in 1998 to $1.7 billion in 2003.