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It is better
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John Sumser

is more
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John Gall


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Trucks Without Drivers
(January 24, 2003) - 
We've got a solid track record to preserve. For each of the past four years, we've found something negative to say about the Monster Superbowl Ad. We've always looked forward to our annual adventure of shooting ducks in a barrel.

In some ways, this year is no exception. The much anticipated ad features eighteen wheelers careening through buildings and explosions threatening to crash into a station wagon full of wide-eyed kids. We immediately yearned for an "Ernest" movie or a long afternoon of Burt Reynolds and Lonnie Anderson. The clip evokes a stereotype that was so successful that even Clint Eastwood stepped out of his standard detective role to take a monkey on a cross-country truck driving trip. "That's a 10-4, good buddy."

We're suckers for feel good movies that feature lots of things blowing up. The Monster ad manages to pack the best 10 seconds of all of those movies into the background while showcasing the central image: a truck without a driver. Pitched directly at the stereotypical white, blue collar, redneck (do they still even make Pabst Blue Ribbon beer?) and their employers, the ad subtly (and that's amazing given the explosive backdrop) reminds the audience about this year's most serious labor shortage: transportation workers, particularly truck drivers.

Good branding endeavors are exclusive. They reach out to particular demographics at the exclusion of others. The fundamental trick is to not cross the line of offending the others in the process. If successful, it makes the target audience laugh and remember. It makes the non-target audience laugh.

The reason that ads are so easy to caricature is this very dynamic. A great ad (not necessarily an award winner but one that accomplishes its mission) is focused in its communication target. It will use stereotypes to narrow the audience. Picking on those stereotypes is our longstanding key to having something juicy and negative to say about the ad.

So, assume we did it.

The Superbowl ad effectively broadens the reach and appeal of the Monster Brand. Although "Hourly and Skilled" is an awkward way to think about the majority of the American workforce, the next threshold markets for job boards are tightly tied to a deeper penetration of the mainstream culture. Trucks without Drivers is the image to concentrate on this year. After a decade of White Collar shortages and the corresponding increase in education levels, we face the surprise challenge of having fewer drivers than we need. It's clearly the right target.

So, after four successive years of staunch lampooning, let's say that we were tempted again. But, the clarity of Monster's market expansion vision and the certainty that they are on the mark leave us in the position of having to praise the endeavor. It's a very positive sign after months of befuddlement.

- John Sumser

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