We are the robots

kraftwerk_4-575x382The most common question I’ve heard in the last two job board conferences (apart from ‘where is the bar?’) is: What is programmatic advertising? You have to admit, the phrase is a bit off-putting – we know about ads, but what is this programmatic stuff? (Yes, the Doctor escaped from college with one and only one programming class under his belt).

To find out, I spent some time with Tom Chevalier of AppCast – a purveyor, as you might guess, of programmatic ad delivery. I asked him many (dumb) questions so you don’t have to. Here’s what I found out.

First things first. Programmatic simply means that the ad placement decisions are driven by algorithms. Programmatic ads have been in the consumer sector for some time now – but have been slower to move into the recruitment market. Times, however, are a-changing.

So from the perspective of an employer, how does this work? First, they load the jobs they want to promote into a programmatic ad platform. Then they set a price per job application that they’re willing to pay. They also set the number of applicants per job, and the basic target audience (i.e., Ruby programmers in Chicago). They push the button, and the ad goes out. The software does the rest.

What is the software doing? It parses the ad, looking at things like location, job title, education, and so on. Then – based on that information and the employer’s requirements on price and number of applicants – it places the ad inside its network of sites. (For example, AppCast has about 6000 sites in its network, ranging from job boards to consumer sites).

What’s the payoff for the employer? Ideally, better ad targeting and control over the response for each ad. For example, if you have an ad that gets the number of applicants you want, then you aren’t spending more to get additional applicants you don’t want.

What about the perspective of a job board? What’s to keep a company like AppCast from ‘pivoting’ (as per Indeed) and going after all of the employers – pushing job boards out of the picture. Well, as Tom put it, ‘without job boards, we don’t have the candidates. And without candidates, we don’t have a business.’ In essence, job boards can look at participation in a programmatic ad network as channel sales. Ideally these networks will reach employers that the job boards haven’t reached before – and they will produce solid revenue for the boards as well.

Are computers smarter than people? Open question. But can they execute ad placement instructions more quickly and efficiently than people? Absolutely. Should your job board be involved? Possibly. Take a look at what the vendors  are offering and see if they will really improve your employers’ experience.

And don’t forget to have Kraftwerk playing in the background!

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Steven Rothberg

    I like Tom and the other folks at Appcast a lot but that wasn’t a very satisfying answer from him about what’s to prevent them from pivoting and competing head-on with the job boards which today are their customers.

    Flash back 10 years and replace “Appcast” with “Indeed” and tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar. Flash back just a few years ago and replace “Appcast” with “ZipRecruiter” and tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar.

    Early on, Indeed and ZipRecruiter were dependent upon job boards for content — job postings — as few employers understood pay-per-click, aggregation, or even what value a niche job board could bring versus Monster and Careerbuilder. Then Indeed and Zip starting collecting resumes and selling postings directly to employers and the writing was on the wall…twice.

    At College Recruiter, we’ve run into this coopetition issue a number of times. Sometimes it hasn’t been a problem at all. Sometimes we’ve learned to put up with it as we’re still better off with the partnership than without it. And sometimes it has caused us to terminate the partnership.

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