During the World Series, fans have gotten a glimpse at many advertisements, including for the new series premiering on Apple TV+. We’ve been reminded of the existence of Taco Bell, and seen a preview of Linda Hamilton’s return to action hero status in Terminator: Dark Fate. We’ve also been treated to questionable ads for the Austin-based jobs site Indeed.com.
Let’s start with a look at one of the more, uh, tacky commercials, “Home,” which packs all of the emotional manipulation of a dark-money political ad into a brief spot for the company.
That’s a heavy fifteen seconds, so I’ll break it down: The ad starts by putting the viewer in the shoes of a father who has failed his crying child. Why is she crying? Because he promised that she wouldn’t have to move, and whatever’s going on with his career is going to take the family to a faraway city where she will never see her friends again. In addition to including a close-up of the heartbroken tween’s face, we get shots of the shame-filled patriarch, who has so disappointed his daughter that she slams the door in his face. The whole scene is soundtracked by a haunting, minor-key piano score and voiced over by a hyper-serious narrator.
And then, the man’s phone dings with hope, as he gets a notification from Indeed. It informs him that there’s an operations director job listed presumably nearby, where his daughter will be able to continue growing up with the friends she made after their last move, as the ad’s narrator informs us. The young girl then opens her door to her father as the score swells.
That’s a lot to take in when you’re just trying to watch some baseball. Are you experiencing professional failure at this very moment? Then boy, is this ad no fun for you to watch. Doing okay right now? Just be aware that, in a volatile economy, you could be in a high stakes situation like this one pretty soon!
Selling a product—any product, even a jobs website—by suggesting that you owe it to your family to use it, lest you doom your daughter to misery, is pretty dang gross. It also doesn’t make much sense. The dad here doesn’t even look at his phone when it dings, so how does he know he can reassure her that there’s hope on the horizon? More to the point, the notification on his phone doesn’t say “incoming job offer,” just “1 new job available.” I don’t have kids, but even I know better than to get a child’s hopes up just because I saw a job listing that I might be qualified for. If your kid is mad at you because you broke your promise not to make them move again, how do you think they’re going to feel if you don’t happen to make it to the second round of interviews?
If you’re not old enough to identify with the parent in that ad, though, don’t worry—Gen Z gets theirs, too, in Indeed’s ad about “The Text.”
In 30 seconds, “The Text” gives us insight into the life of someone in the boomerang generation—for whom dwindling career opportunities, something that many youths face today, has led them to move back in with their parents after graduating from college. The young man in the ad spends his time staring at his phone and growing unflattering facial hair; his parents spend theirs doing his laundry, cooking for him, and shooting him disappointed looks.
They’re mostly upset because he’s looking at his phone all the time, instead of pounding the pavement in hopes of jump-starting his career—”They thought he’d be a little more motivated to find a job,” the same grim narrator intones. But then, at the dinner table, as the parents exchange weary looks about their kid, his phone dings. The frustrated father snatches it up before his son can look at it—and lo, he actually wasn’t just sexting his friends and watching TikToks; rather, he was applying for jobs the whole time (even at the dinner table!).
It’s less pointed than “Home,” but the implication—that you have to prove that you’re not a deadbeat by spending every waking moment looking for a job—is still fairly crass. It’s also clearly not targeted at the Gen Z boomerang kids the ad puts in the crosshairs. Rather, this seems more aimed at their parents, who can ask “why haven’t you signed up for Indeed.com yet?” over and over again, as though not being on a jobs site explains why 17% of people between the ages of 18-24 are out of work. “I’ll get right on that,” the kids would surely say, except they—like the young man in the video—are too exhausted from being judged all the time to listen to their beleaguered parents, anyway.
But the thing is, a job market with underemployment rates that are double the unemployment rate, the fact that young people struggle to find career-track jobs, and the complicated decision-making that goes into figuring out the right thing to do for your family amounts to a lot—and none of that fits easily into a 15- or 30-second ad. Those are heavy topics, and you need more than a few seconds to dig into them properly.
Given the difficulty in communicating those realities, maybe the Austin-based jobs site could take a page from the competition, and try to get their name out there in a way that’s a little more abstract instead?