Snooty “The Ladders” spot does the job for job-seekers.

In Ad Creative, The Marketing Microscope on April 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Marketing has changed a lot since the ‘Excuse me – would you have a little Grey Poupon?” days. For those of you too young to remember, that’s from a classic commercial attempting to class up the Grey Poupon image. For one thing, the general trend has been to make snobbery a little less fashionable. For another, the past few years of economic pain has managed to disqualify a great many of us as snobs.

But for certain products,  elitism still makes good sense.  One great example is a currently-airing  spot for The Ladders, an executive search and recruitment firm and Web site specializing in jobs paying $100,000 plus or more.  In the spot, two people playing a civil game of tennis are overwhelmed by “the great unwashed” pouring out of the stands and elbowing aside the original participants. The newcomers are made to look foolish, falling down, mishitting balls badly, and looking totally inept – clearly out of their depth.

The spot makes the obvious analogy, equating those people to the mob of mediocre job applicants who flood prospective employers with their inferior submissions, making it more difficult for your very qualified application to be noticed. Haughty? Demeaning? Yes. Exactly. And The Ladders doesn’t care one bit, since if you consider yourself among the demeaned, you have already disqualified yourself as a Ladders prospect. Perfect self-selection. If there’s any hope for you at all, you identify more with the original tennis players who are the victims here.

It may not be “nice” to disparage the rank-and-file job seeker in this manner. But it’s a good strategic move for The Ladders.

This reminds me of a print campaign many years ago for the U.S. News & World Report, aimed at ad agency media buyers, and placed in trade publications. It did a wonderful job of positioning the magazine against Time and Newsweek, prime competitors that tended to include more entertainment and lifestyle news.  The ad featured a simple shot of the magazine’s publisher, and a headline that appeared to be a quote from him.

“We spare our readers unimportant news. We spare our advertisers unimportant readers.”

Ouch. But nice shot. Solid positioning, and one that certainly resonated with those who thought of themselves as “important.”  And with the advertisers that needed to reach those people.


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