HR Tech on TV

Steve Boese Communication, HR Tech, HR Technology, Steve Boese, Television

With the proliferation over the last 15 years or so of TV networks followed more recently by satellite radio channels and online streaming services for both video and audio content (like Hulu or Spotify), there has been a commensurate increase in the amount and availability of advertisements. After all, just about all forms of “free” content we consume are ad-supported. With more sources (and an overall increase) of content, we are also “enjoying” an overall increase in the number, variety, and type of advertisements we see. If you doubt this, just ask yourself how many DraftKings and FanDuel spots you have had to suffer through in the last few months.

But another interesting—at least to me—development has also accompanied the overall increase in advertising messages, and that is the recent (if subtle) rise in HR technology solution provider advertising across these media. In just the last year or so I have noticed TV spots on mass-market channels like CNBC or CNN from HR solution providers like Ultimate Software, Workday, IBM, and more recently Namely. And on satellite radio, of which I am a pretty regular listener, there has been scores of spots in the last year from companies like Paychex, ZipRecruiter, ClearFit, and Paycom.

As an HR Tech geek, I think it is pretty cool when during a “normal” news or entertainment show that a spot for an HR tech company that I know pretty well comes on—it is a fantastic break from the aforementioned ENDLESS series of FanDuel ads. But this recent rise and seeming embrace of TV and radio for somewhat of a niche product like HR technology solutions has got me thinking: What makes for a “good” TV or radio spot for HR tech? What do HR and business leaders need to know about an HR tech solution that can be communicated in less than one minute? Or said differently (and easier to try and answer): What would make a commercial for HR tech memorable and effective?

Since I asked, I will take a shot at answering but would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, as well. Here are my three elements I think have to be present to make a spot for HR tech work:

1. Something to grab on to

In 30 seconds or so, the viewer/listener can probably only remember one big thing or idea from the spot. And the spot has to help them know what to grab on to and remember… even if it means possibly smacking them over the head with it. A recent spot from Namely is a good example of this. They hit the theme of “culture” about 5 times in less than a minute, building up to a tagline, “HR for Humans,” that the viewer can remember and grab hold of.

2. Funny (usually) = memorable

Some of the best all-time TV commercials have been, at their core, really funny. Think about the Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” spots or even the Budweiser “Whassup?” commercials from back in the day. Both are remembered to this day because they were (at least before they became annoying) really funny. But can commericals for HR technology actually be funny? I think they can, if you have some time, budget, and creativity. Check this recent Workday spot that takes a not-funny-at-all concept like downsizing and turns it around into a funny take that reinforces the real message that good HR tech can do more than help HR leaders make cuts.

3. HR tech should be about people

While HR tech companies are selling technology, what they are really, or should be, selling is the enablement of better business outcomes through people. So I think in my totally unresearched, unscientific opinion, that the best spots are actually about people—not about technology. This recent Ultimate Software spot does a great job at this. It’s a 30-second love letter to the actual people that make the business run and makes an argument that they deserve a great technology solution to support them in their efforts. It is hard to come away from watching this and think, “No, my people are not good enough for this.”

Getting the attention of any content consumer in a short ad spot is pretty tough. It is probably even harder when the product that is being promoted is not the typical or expected one. Sadly, HR tech is not as ubiquitous as… I don’t know… light beer or the latest Chevrolet. But I think it is exceedingly cool that HR tech companies are running spots on TV and radio these days.

If nothing else, it lets people like me pretend watching TV is really “industry research.”