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Programmatic gets some respect

Programmatic ads have been around for a while in the consumer space. If you’ve been in a deep dark cave for the past 5 years (and if that’s the case, why are you reading this post?), a quick definition: programmatic simply means using software – aka algorithms – to buy advertising. In other words, machines buying ads. As with much else, computers can buy ads more quickly and efficiently than humans can – but they are limited by what their algorithms tell them to do, and the advertising universe they have access to – both of which are created and controlled by humans. So we haven’t gone completely robotic. Yet.

Back in 2014 or so, the first ripples of programmatic began appearing in the recruiting pond (poetic, eh? There’s more where that came from.). Recruitics was pushing their platform for distributing ads to multiple aggregators, measuring effectiveness, and then distributing again based on the result – in other words, they were using software to buy ads. Appcast also appeared, providing a software dashboard that allowed job boards and employers to distribute their job ads across a network of sites (including plenty of job boards) – again, using software to buy and place ads, quickly and efficiently.

Time marched on. Appcast sponsored a series of conferences on programmatic with TAtech. Recruitics moved into Europe. Other players like PandoLogic, JobAdx, and NEXXT appeared. Job boards began offering programmatic to their clients. And bit by bit, programmatic’s share of the overall recruitment ad market grew.

Then came the 1-2 punch of acquisition. First it was Appcast: Stepstone, part of Axel-Springer and a major European job board player, purchased 80% of the U.S.-based company. Next, Indeed announced that it was acquiring UK-based ClickIQ. Nothing says a technology has arrived like a couple of big acquisitions, right? Both acquisitions make sense to me – Stepstone’s move into the U.S. market using a programmatic platform is smart, and probably relatively cheap compared to other alternatives. And Indeed has long been focused on growing in the U.K. and Europe – so programmatic fits right in to what they’re already doing.

But my post title isn’t quite right – programmatic has had respect inside the industry for some time. In fact, it’s been hard to go to a conference over the past 5 years without bumping into a bevy of programmatic vendors and enthusiasts. However, where programmatic hasn’t had perhaps as much respect – or rather, visibility – has been in the employer world. Sure, the big enterprise clients know all about it – they can draw a straight line from their consumer marketing efforts to the programmatic recruitment efforts. But much of the rest of the employer audience out there is just starting to wake up to programmatic. And guess what? A couple of acquisitions by two major recruiting players will pique their interest.

For the programmatic vendors out there, the fun is just beginning. Who’s next?

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