A Review of Indeed’s First Super Bowl Ad

Have you seen that commercial that aims to make an emotional connection with viewers struggling to cope with today’s tough challenges? No, not that commercial. The other one. The one with the singer belting an inspirational ballad. Yes, that song. But no, not that singer. 

Perhaps you’re sensing the point here — that there’s a whole cornucopia of commercials drowning their brands in a sea of sameness. Indistinguishable from each other, these ads present similar messages in similar ways. They’re not bad, but they’re not great — unless you consider that anything less than great in the world of pricey promotions is bad. Especially super-expensive ads during the Super Bowl.

Which brings us to Indeed’s first-ever Super Bowl spot, geared all around offering hope to job-seekers. According to the job site’s press release about the commercial, the 60-second spot highlights “the emotional journey of job-seekers at a time when many people are facing economic distress. As millions of Americans have lost jobs, this spot looks to provide hope by showcasing real people looking for a job and their challenges and triumphs along the way.”

Hyping Hope

Indeed seems to have accomplished that goal with its ad, which shows different types of individuals suffering the frustration, hardships, and anxiety related to searching for different types of roles. The ad also depicts the relief and euphoria that accompanies finally landing a position.  

The problem with the ad is not the emotional journey it portrays. It’s that it fails to do so in a way that stands out. It feels almost like some University of Phoenix ad. Or hey, for a brief moment you might even be forgiven for confusing it for an ad by the mortgage company Guaranteed Rate.

That’s because both Indeed and Guaranteed Rate used the same stock footage in their Super Bowl ads. Awkward! 

Awkward not just in the sense of two people showing up at the ball in the same outfit. It’s awkward precisely because the snafu speaks directly to the main criticism being made here about the ad’s lack of differentiation. 

Though in all fairness, the identical clip constitutes just one second of Indeed’s ad. A company spokesperson told Newsweek that Indeed “had to work through various Covid-19 situations to ensure the quality story was told. One of the production shots had to be canceled, and we were able to fill a specific need through a content house…We do not plan to change the clip, or the ad, as the spirit remains the same, one of conveying hope and optimism to job seekers in their job search.”

In other words, we should forgive Indeed for this minor faux pas. 

Branding That Blends In Rather than Blasts Through

But not for its more major mistake. The central issue is that while Indeed may be competing against Monster or CareerBuilder from a brand perspective, from an advertising point of view, it actually is competing against Guaranteed Rate. It’s competing against every Super Bowl ad for people to remember it. And you can probably say the same regarding TV ads in general.

That Indeed has done little to discern itself from the usual status quo of saccharine spots that spring from the pandemic seems like a missed opportunity to do something that viewers would find unique. 

A key problem is Indeed’s use of real job-seekers in 95% of the commercial. The problem being not the people themselves but that viewers have no way of knowing that they aren’t watching actors. 

It’s great that Indeed “wanted the hero of the ad to be that job-seeker,” as the company’s VP of global brand marketing Jennifer Warren explained to Ad Age. It’s also great that, as Warren likewise pointed out, Indeed felt it important to cast real job-seekers in the job hunt to reflect what it’s like to look for work today. That’s actually pretty cool. 

Article Continues Below

But how would viewers know this? How would people know that Indeed filmed real job-seekers from across the country? You think the masses will view the commercial and then head online to read this or some other article that references the making of it? 

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, is it Indeed’s Super Bowl ad? 

Again, a missed opportunity. 

A Brand Description Is Not a Promotional Message

Perhaps this is what happens when the driving message behind the ad could not be broader. As Indeed CEO Chris Hyams explained in the press statement about the commercial, “Indeed is here to help all job-seekers, no matter their background or experience, get jobs that align with their skills, passions and strength of character.” As a description for the organization, that makes sense. As a communications message for a promotion, it’s vanilla.

That said, Indeed does manage to sprinkle some product features throughout the ad, but it’s unlikely that viewers will catch or pay attention to those quick spots. 

Beyond the Ad

Indeed’s ad may be a letdown, but the company may still score some major touchdowns (lame wordplay totally intended) with its broader Super Bowl (and beyond) #NowHiring marketing campaign. This includes social media postings that call out industries, regions, and companies with open roles throughout the game and afterward. 

As Warren told Ad Age, there’ll be a “focus on all of the jobs that are available right now, really playing off the other Super Bowl advertisers in the categories that are advertised and highlighting the jobs in those fields.” 

So all in all, does Indeed’s ad successfully convey hope at the heart of its message? Sure. Has it done so in a memorable way? Judge for yourself:

Vadim Liberman is editor of ERE.net and a workplace renegade advancing how we think, work, and live. He has previously worked as a strategy consultant to HR and recruiting tech companies at The Starr Conspiracy, as a talent management professional at Prudential, and as senior editor of The Conference Board Review, a magazine for business leaders. Vadim loves to talk about all things HR, talent acquisition, and Bravo TV shows.