Monster and Goliath: How Monster Outsmarts, Not Outspends, Its Competition
How the underdog of online career services is giving the goliaths a run for their money with only a fraction of their budgets.
We’re all familiar with the biblical account of “David and Goliath.” The young and scrappy David, armed with only a stone and sling, bravely faces the giant Goliath, shielded by full body armor and wielding a javelin. The odds were stacked against David, but his slingshot targeting was so accurate he slew Goliath with just one stone to the temple.
The story has come to stand for any competition between the heavily favored and the underdog. We hear it mentioned during sports broadcasts. It also works in describing business competition.
The following marketing success story is a modern-day spin on the David and Goliath narrative, with a couple of unique twists. Monster, the online job board, once was the goliath of the career services industry. Over the last several years, though, Monster lost its lead to newer rivals, including LinkedIn and Indeed. Today, Monster has more in common with David. Fortunately for every business underdog, new advertising tools and strategies allow them to put up a fierce fight against their larger rivals.
One of the most important people behind Monster’s recent marketing resurgence is Shaun Farrar, Senior Director of Global Media, and his secret weapon is using TV advertising to acquire more of his target audience.
Shaun grew up in Vermont and moved to the Boston area for college where he continues his serious passion for all things Patriots. He also came to love digital marketing and media, selling display sponsorships for the Red Sox as an intern for the New England Sports Network in the late ‘90s. For over 14 years, he served on the digital agency-side, including Digitas, where he worked on the likes of FedEx, Cingular Wireless and Bank of America. Later, he brought a digital-first mindset to Havas Media before looking to build something in-house at MyWebGrocer. That’s when he truly realized the value of first party data and insights because each week he gained significant signal on customers’ grocery habits while overseeing the Albertsons account.
Suddenly, Shaun was presented with the opportunity—and challenge—of a lifetime. Just 10 miles down the road, a once well-known website called Monster was in need of adding some additional media leadership. In its prime, Monster was the leader in online career services. They were virtually unrivaled for years, with memorable Super Bowl spots that cemented their dominance. They rendered newspaper job listings obsolete, and no other brand shared their futuristic vision.
Surprisingly, this uphill battle was exactly the kind of thing that attracted Shaun to Monster. “What we have compared to others is we have a brand that people root for and want to see succeed,” says Shaun. “Looking at net promoter scores, people really gravitate toward the Monster brand, but the challenge is they’re all 35 years and older. Anyone younger thinks we’re an energy drink or truck series.”
Low name recognition by Monster’s target audience of 18 to 34 year old job seekers is the product of the larger issue at hand—the most competitive brands in the online job board market today have goliath-size budgets compared to Monster’s. “The biggest challenge we have is brands like Indeed spend 20 times what we spend,” said Shaun. “They’re definitely investing in their brand and are present within highly visible areas like MLB/NBA playoffs.”
Shaun needs his ad dollars to work even harder. Having grown-up in digital media, he saw an opportunity to improve upon TV strategy and how the buy was executed. He decided to make a switch to Simulmedia, which could fulfill his vision of bringing all media in-house and transacting programmatically. Plus, it gave him a provider that emphasizes cost-efficient scale when driving customer traffic to the Monster website. That called for a media strategy that relies on linear TV over digital video or over-the-top (OTT for short, sometimes known as streaming). “OTT and digital video are much higher priced and often fraught with viewability issues, bots and inhuman traffic,” said Shaun. “These sources of inventory [aren’t] 100% based on reaching humans in a brand safe environment.”
Shaun knew he needed a more innovative strategy and platform that would keep pace with his demands for digital-esque speed and precision, from targeting and planning to measurement and insights reporting.
An encounter with Simulmedia’s CEO several years ago made who to call first an easy decision. “I’ve always kept an eye on Simulmedia ever since I invited Dave [Morgan] to speak at Bank of America about 10 years ago,” Shaun said. At that time, he viewed Simulmedia’s vision as a “forward-thinking, futuristic vision for how to buy TV because of its ad-servers and behavioral targeting.”
Monster reached only two percent less of the target audience than ZipRecruiter, who spent three times as much.
The future had finally arrived in the form of Simulmedia’s end-to-end platform, which has given Shaun the familiar comfort of insights and analytics that worked a lot like digital, but with the credibility, safety, and scale of national linear TV.
“Monster’s brand was built on big brand advertising and now we are the opposite end of the spectrum, focusing on audience vs. context,” said Shaun. “Rather than investing in huge events that we don’t know if they return or not, we now take that same investment and spread it out over a long period of time and find an efficient way to interact with our target.”
The ability to pinpoint the highest and lowest performing spots, then quickly optimize on them, is critical for Shaun. “The dashboard we have through Simulmedia we check on just about a daily basis,” said Shaun. “I can get a directional view of how we are driving traffic, cost per visit, apply, and download. Then I look at who is delivering reach, through network, daypart, and programming.”
Simulmedia’s transparent reporting dashboard is more than an added bonus—it allows him to track his campaign performance in near-real time to make important calls on allocating his media budget. All of his key performance indicators (KPIs) serve a dual purpose because his site is a two-sided market destination for both employers and job seekers.
Monster’s success metrics for TV resemble those used by many sophisticated, digital-first brands that know TV works. “We look at three main components: how much traffic were we driving to website and how many applications are started, the number of app downloads, and the number of visits to the hiring site by employers.”
Achieving successful results across these main metrics is hard. But after Monster’s first campaign with Simulmedia in April of 2019, Shaun will tell you that targeting accuracy is your best shot to making every dollar count.
"TV was very effective and efficient at being able to deliver all of those KPIs, especially driving application starts,” said Shaun. Interestingly, he achieved a five to 10 percent lift in branded search terms while the TV campaign aired, though it was Simulmedia’s optimization that generated the most impressive results. “Since launching with Simulmedia, we’ve seen our TV advertising cost per site visit (CPV) drop over 50 percent and our mobile app cost per install (CPI) drop due to aggressive optimization and applied learnings,” said Shaun.
He also witnessed a halo impact on employers when advertising to candidates. “Employers love when they see us investing in our brand. Unlike ZipRecruiter and Indeed, which advertise to employers, we advertise to candidates knowing it impacts the employer side.”
Since launching with Simulmedia, we've seen our TV advertising cost per site visit (CPV) drop over 50 percent.
To prove this theory, he has tested what happens when he reduces spend on TV. “When we don’t have TV going and reduce budget we see a decrease in all core KPIs,” Shaun said. “Not being on TV is detrimental to our business.”
These results are impressive for Monster as an individual brand, but they become even more significant when stacked up against brands with bigger budgets. Monster reached only two percent less of the target audience than ZipRecruiter, who spent three times as much. Plus during that same campaign, LinkedIn spent 17 times as much yet only reached three times more of the same target as Monster.
This targeted reach is made possible by strategic optimizations. “What I find most valuable on a monthly basis is we get with Conor [Finnegan, VP of Ad Operations] and Erica [Meyer, VP of Account Management] and go through what the dashboard doesn’t tell us and go deeper so we make the right optimizations,” said Shaun.
“We continuously, month-over-month get more efficient. We’ve reduced parts of the buy that aren’t going well for us and make sure to be testing new things each month, whether that be new networks or a new emphasis on over-the-airs (OTAs) and how we can push them before getting diminishing returns.” (OTAs don’t rely on cable subscriptions to reach viewers, making them an increasingly popular option for cord cutters.)
“We do a really good job at finding pockets of inventory and finding pockets of reach in unique places, like OTAs. I’m very proud of the fact that we are not in your face all the time because of an endless budget, but we are very selective because we are balancing finding customers with an adequate frequency level.”
The perfect recipe for communicating its unique value proposition is captured by Monster’s current website. “What we don’t want is to put irrelevant jobs in front of people. Our goal is to promote the best fit. Our end goal here is to pay off our employers job with the right audience.”
As Shaun maps out his 2020 media plans, his goals for marketing again parallel his goals for the company. “We are looking to shift the metrics we optimize media on to be more focused on unique applies and focus on getting the next incremental application from a new candidate to build a stronger relationship with larger set of candidates through unique reach.”
His motto, “We outsmart—not outspend,” is a driving force to keep charisma high going into the new year. This shows that being scrappy, having the right strategy— and of course, the right tools—is all the Davids of the world need to compete with the goliaths.