TARGET PRACTICE

Updated: May 18 2006, 05:30am hrs
With Indias fastest growing imported liquor brand your career will always be on a high, promises a new Jack Daniels ad. Considering the product, it is easy to let your imagination run amok. But wait before you jettison it as yet another dubious campaign meant to lure you into alcoholism. Its actually a vacancy posting by the company known worldwide for its fine Tennessee whiskey. Say hello to new-age recruitment advertisingadvertising that has come a long way from the days of looking-for-so-and-so-type copy to becoming a strategic image-building tool in the hands of media- savvy corporates.

With companies looking at recruitment ads as door-crasher selling strategies, the spends are bound to grow. At present, the recruitment advertising market stands at Rs 810 crore, and is growing at 35%, according to estimates. Most of this money goes into the English print medium that dominates the market with a close to 62% share. Job portals, though relatively new on the block, are not complaining either. Websites like Naukri.com and monster.com are gung-ho about business, which is growing briskly as more and more people log on to the net every day. According to a recent report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the number of online job hunters touched 6.5 million in 2005-06, posting a 71% rise over the previous year.

After matrimonial and real estate, recruitment is the third biggest chunk of advertisers for print and websites, points out Naukri.com CEO Sanjeev Bhikchandani. Adds Siddharth Mukherjee, director of human resource consulting firm Ma Foi, Print has become a hook-up for the job seeker, who is later guided to the companys official website. IAMAI also estimates that the size of the online recruitment market would touch Rs 241 crore on 2006-07, against Rs 145 crore in 2005-06.

Not only has the money grown in leaps and bounds, the look and feel of recruitment ads have changed forever. Times New Roman,12 point is out, exclaims Anand Halve, partner with brand and communication consulting firm chlorophyll. Its a sellers market. Besides focusing on the products that companies have become pro in selling, they are now learning the tricks to buy products (employees) and positioning themselves accordingly.

In a way, old-style agencies have always been ad designers and placers, which was fine before the internet, branding, and a talent crunch forever changed the way companies find candidates and the way candidates look for their next job. In the nineties, hiring middle-level people was more difficult than hiring freshers, says Sumit Roy, founder and director, Univbrands. Today the situation is just the reverse. What we are seeing is that entry-level people are being pursued in the same way as middle management.

In short, in todays world of recruiting, the ball often lies in the candidates cou- rt. Little wonder, companies, both locally and globally, are developing themselves as employer brands, where the recruitment process includes the marketing of the company as an employer of choice.

A quick glance through such ads in recent times would reveal how words like bonus have disappeared giving way to phrases like work culture, family vacations, getting home at a decent hour and such like. Who would have thought that fathers would be allowed maternity leave Halve sums up the trend recalling P&Gs new initiative.

Recruitment advertising is thus being driven at two levels: one, in line with a companys HR policies and two, in the way a company wants to project itself. For example, many IT and ITeS companies are using their existing employees as brand ambassadors. Confident faces and success stories splashed across pages work as a magnet for potential employees. (News channel NDTV made a virtue of it by splashing the faces of its anchors in the media just before the elections in 2004.) FMCG companies such as Marico are not far behind. In a recent campaign titled Uncommon Sense, Marico used one of its own employees (Aparna Roy) to drive home the companys focus on innovation.

One of the brands to catch the potential of recruitment ads early on was probably the Indian Army, which in 1998 made a successful attempt to lure youngsters with its Do you have it in you image projection campaign. This also marked a strategic shift for the Armyaway from Employment News notices to cutting edge brand recall advertising.

On its part, technology is making its presence felt by adding to the existing delivery mechanisms. Relevant jobs are now being sent on SMS, in the in-box and are being fought for on reality television. Job fairs are travelling countrywide and some BPO companies are even trying to tie up with youth channels to connect with the target audience.

A few companies have started blogging to give potential employees a peak at a companys work culture. At best, say those in the know, this is just the tip of the iceberg. More recruitment blogs are likely to come up; and these blogs will get way more sophisticatedbrandishing images and video clips to remain competitive within their markets.

As the talent hunt intensifies, employers will have to become ever more innovative and imaginative. Surely, more complex decisions will have to be made on the mix of media used as well.