Programmatic Media: The Future of Recruitment Advertising

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If you’ve been in the job-ad buying space long enough, you know that every now and again a technology comes along that revolutionizes the way we run ad campaigns. Today, the new kid on the block set to fundamentally reshape the recruitment advertising landscape is programmatic advertising.

What Is Programmatic Advertising?

In a nutshell, programmatic advertising uses machine-to-machine communication to purchase online ads in real time, according to a set of criteria. Human beings define the customer profile – such as the age, geographic location, and income of the ideal consumer – and the software takes over from there. Complex algorithms figure out where in the digital ecosystem your audience hangs out and ensure your job ads are placed in front of the right demographic at the right time and just the right place – even if that “right place” is a niche real estate blog run out of Providence. Wherever your proverbial needle is, programmatic advertising can find it in the online haystack.

Programmatic advertising means buying ad space automatically on a Web page so that it is guaranteed to be yours through high-speed real-time bidding (RTB). As a Web page loads, information about the webpage and the user viewing it is transferred to a third-party platform called an ad exchange. The ad exchange auctions off the available impression to the highest bidder. This all happens in the milliseconds it takes for a webpage to load, and the winning ad appears on the loaded page.

The key idea is that artificial intelligence makes better placement decisions than people do. Automated software systems make instantaneous bidding decisions. A few mouse clicks and you’re done.

Where Consumer Advertising Goes, Recruitment Follows

Back in the 1990s, sites like AOL and MSN served as the medium for advertisers looking to reach consumers browsing the Web. Five years later, recruitment followed the same model. The advent of job boards, such as Monster and CareerBuilder, provided a Web-based ecosystem where recruiters could find people looking for work.

ComputerSoon after the recruitment industry got comfortable with this model, along came Google. In the early 2000s, the search engine giant disrupted the consumer world forever with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Recruitment followed suit. Platforms like Indeed and SimplyHired launched their own PPC models that enabled recruiters to spread their budgets across sites where the candidates they needed were looking, spending money only when someone clicked to view a posting.

While PPC has certainly helped shape how advertisers focus their budgets, it must be managed manually and requires sophisticated planning to drive strong performance.

About five years ago, the programmatic advertising engine entered the scene. Instead of having the advertiser plan and build a strategy from the ground up, the sophistication is served to them on a silver platter. Advertisers pull in their end goals, set custom advertising rules and budgets, and hit “go” – it’s automated.

What’s the Impact for Recruitment Advertising?

Before programmatic, anyone who wished to place a job ad would have to research the best places to reach candidates, engage in an admin-heavy process of querying slot pricing and availability from various publishers, place orders, and manually upload their job ads.

The rise of programmatic advertising in the job space means that recruitment advertisers no longer have to post their job ads and pray. Programmatic advertising seeks out viable candidates and targets them on various channels until the message elicits the desired response – a completed job application.

Because recruiters specify their own financial parameters, they can engineer the allocation of ad dollars towards critical and hard-to-fill vacancies that need applications.

Think of it like buying stocks versus a mutual fund. Right now, recruiters are buying stocks. There’s nothing wrong with stocks, but stocks are more volatile in response to micro-market conditions. Mutual funds, however, are much more stable investments and generally see steady growth. The latter is the more reliable approach.

One thing’s for sure: The future is rosy for programmatic advertising. In 2013, IDC suggested that spending on RTB display advertising would accelerate by 59 percent each year through 2016, making it the fastest-growing segment of digital advertising. A report from BI Intelligence suggests that RTB will account for more than $18.2 billion in U.S. digital ad revenues in 2018, up from just $3.1 billion in 2013.

TypewriterThis programmatic paradigm shift is set to take the recruitment industry by storm. We’ve seen it with job boards and we’ve seen it with PPC. With the rest of the digital world marching toward programmatic, there’s no way recruiting will stay stuck in the classifieds. If you can sell an Audi through programmatic ads, you can do the same with an inventory of jobs.

In today’s hyper-competitive recruiting environment, anything that can break the talent ceiling is likely to become reality.

By Chris Forman