What is Programmatic Advertising? A million billion opportunities.

Programmatic advertising automatically places advertisements in electronic media to achieve optimal results. It could transform recruitment marketing by effectively targeting audiences across numerous networks both contextually and behaviourally.

“Programmatic advertising, marketing or media are technologies that automate buying, placement and optimisation of media inventory, replacing human-based methods. In this process, supply and demand partners use automated systems to place advertisements in electronically targeted media inventory.”

From Wikipedia

If you calculate the number of permutations that bidders have to analyse whether to buy specific impressions and compute the bids for each of them, it equals a staggering million billion possibilities. That’s a lot of zeroes.

Let’s take a look back in time. It was 21 years ago when the first banner ad appeared on HotWired.com, the previous URL of wired.com. This effectively marked the new beginning for not just advertising but also for all marketing. Let’s be honest though, the banner ad was not a million miles from our traditional practices at the time. So what’s changed? Technology. The speed of advancement in ad serving technology in recent years has been meteoric and is still going strong. Soon it is believed that every display unit will be an advertising opportunity, so not exclusive to your mobile, tablet or PC but your oven timer at home or your car dashboard.  These will be interactive displays that will be able to track consumer response too.

There has been an obvious massive increase in online media publishers, and with it the number of display advertising opportunities now in the millions. From a media planner’s point of view, traditionally they would be liaising with 15 -30 media publishers and analysing 20 – 30 ad buys a week. Automated buyers of online advertising analyse millions in a second.

For display advertising, programmatic is the future, and it won’t stop there. Analysts believe that programmatic purchasing will be soon part of our everyday lives, whether buying a car or a pair of shoes.

From a recruitment marketing point of view it now means we can effectively target audiences across numerous networks both contextually and behaviourally, not relying on just a limited number of media publishing platforms. At Penna we have been using programmatic for a while now and the response data is compelling, showing much better results than traditional display advertising approaches. Whatever your thoughts on display advertising are, programmatic makes it possible to target audiences at the right time and for less money.

Jim Bloor

A job in need is a job on Indeed

Indeed’s tried and tested aggregation and search engine model is so seamless candidates often forget it’s how they found the job in the first place. But Indeed’s ubiquity means it often gets blamed for employers’ failings and seldom gets praised for the service it offers.

For employers, targeting jobseekers couldn’t be easier. They post a job on their website with minimal effort and receive applications within minutes without spending a penny, congratulating themselves on the campaign success and none the wiser about how word reached the wider world.

This can be usually attributed to Indeed or a similar job aggregator or search engine. Indeed gets its vacancy listings from a feed of employers’ job pages. It’s legal to do this without the owner’s permission as it is in the public domain, but employers can request to have it turned off, in the same way you can request Google Search not to include your website in their search results and not to index it.

Victim of its own success

The problem Indeed is experiencing, is when you become successful at something you tend to get the blame for everything bad. I read an article – actually it was more of an ill-informed rant from a recruiter – about how Indeed was the root of all evil and was the reason for lack of quality applications, and they used underhand tactics in gaining jobs on their system. Such words as “scraping websites” and “mirroring websites” were used, when in fact these are five- year-old black hat search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics that Google pretty much have a made a thing of the past.

Applying for jobs has never been easier, and whereas as people would have thought twice before applying for a job, there seems to be a trend of “I am probably not suitable but let’s give it a go and see what happens” attitude.

Quality applicants, or the lack thereof, has been an issue since well before the launch of Indeed, or the invention of the internet for that matter. I understand the frustrations recruiters are experiencing; and like with most things in employer marketing there is no silver bullet.

Better response needs better posts

Most recruiters rely on candidates telling them where they saw the advert or heard about the job, which is about reliable as a chocolate fireguard. We recently ran a test where we asked candidates applying for a role where they saw the advert. Interestingly 90% selected the top choice on the dropdown which was a press advert and, yes you guessed it, there was no press advert.

To improve candidate quantity and quality, recruiters need to write better job postings and use technology to filter out unsuitable applicants via their own digital assets. After all if you think switching off Indeed will stop you getting unsuitable job applications, you are very much mistaken.

Jim Bloor

Planet of the Apps: the appeal of walled gardens


In internet terms a walled garden is a safe, controlled publisher ecosystem, often within an app or ISP environment, that controls the user’s access to Web content and services. The benefits walled gardens offer to users could see online recruitment activities shifting more towards apps and social media.

This limited access approach of walled gardens is becoming increasingly significant with mobile app downloads set to double globally in the next four years as smart phone adoption increases. People are spending more time on their phones interacting with apps, especially when it comes to social media and shopping.

Why this has happened is very clear; users prefer the faster experience of moving between apps on a mobile over waiting for a PC to boot up then navigating sites. Another driver is many large providers want to keep users on their network for longer.

There are many examples of this; Snapchat’s Discover, Facebook Instant Articles, Twitter’s Moments and the YouTube for Kids app. Walled gardens also get round the threat of ad blocking with adverts and content native to the platform as opposed to banner adverts across multiple platforms.

The main appeal of walled gardens is that they put the user at the centre of the experience. For example Snapchat insists that the advertisers in its Discovery section use vertical video, as that is the format that works best for the platform. So having principles and refusing to bend on content execution for the right reasons ensures in the long term a steady economic model. There is no irony lost on the fact that we are behaving like we did back in the 2000s; quality over technology advancements will always shine through.

What this means for recruitment is that the employers quickest to adopt and adapt app opportunities will be able to get ahead of their competitors in the war for talent. The use of social media as the main platform for campaigns platforms as opposed to just supporting other activity will become increasingly important.

Could it be possible that an employer’s Facebook page becomes the centre of their recruitment communications strategy and the careers website simply where you apply for a job? It could even host the application process too. The future is uncertain, but what is sure is that employers who fully understand their target markets and behaviours and match it with their outputs will reap the rewards.

Jim Bloor

Rise of the ad blockers: a warning


Ad blocking has been around almost as long as online advertising. As it becomes increasingly more prevalent, what are the implications for advertising revenue, content and recruitment?

Ad blocking is the removal of advertising content including pop-ups, banner ads and autoplay ads from a web page, app, game or browser. To users, the benefits of ad blocking include quicker loading and cleaner looking web pages free from advertisements and privacy benefits gained through the exclusion of the tracking and profiling systems of ad delivery platforms. Blocking ads can also save data allowance and battery life on mobile devices.

Ad blocking has been available for a long time but, recently hit the headlines when Apple included tools for developers to create apps that block ads on Apple’s Safari browser with iOS 9. The public has also become more wary as data mining makes pop-ups every more personal.

Where ad blocking was the previously the sole preserve of the geek elite, it is now beginning to become used more widely. On average 9.26% of all adverts impressions are blocked, and experts predict that in the next 20 -24 months it is set to double.

Most online media publishers rely on advertising revenue as their main source of income, and in some cases rinse it for all it’s worth. The downside to this can be a poor user experience providing an increase in advert intolerance. This “milk it till its dry approach” has been exacerbated by the rise of programmatic advertising.

More generally, publishers are struggling to settle on a model to monetise the web. A good example was The Sun’s recent backtrack over the paywall it introduced on its online platform in 2013 following the example of fellow News International titles The Times and The Sunday Times. Despite this flop, the paywalls introduced by the New York Times, The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal are considered a success, and The Times and Sunday Times are persevering with their experiment, albeit with generous promotional offers.

Whatever your view on ad blocking, the bottom line is that good content costs money and must be paid for; the compromise is that if you don’t want advertising then you will have to pay for it directly.  Media publishers have been their own masters in the decline in display advertising, effectively bringing up the younger generations with the expectation that content is free. The need for good, edited and checked content is more important than ever, but it needs to be paid for.

My advice would be to think twice before installing an ad blocker because you will end up having to pay for it one way or another.

From a recruitment perspective, this means we need to focus on creativity and execution, working with media publishers in order to provide relevant and effective advertising and engaging promotional content in order to enhance their media consumption experience.


The Evolution of Search

The number of Google searches carried out globally on mobile platforms has overtaken searches on the desktop. Going mobile means more voice search, location based search and more visual search, enabling a much more personalised experience.

Traditional search engines are being replaced by apps offering personal assistance based on anticipating needs and notifying the user through reminders. One such personal digital assistant, Google Now, provides notifications tailored to the user and context, including location and time of day, to anticipate future needs and searches. It has an uncanny ability to tell you whether your journey home from work might be delayed, or the results of a match your favourite team is playing.

Google Now can also provide you with a shopping list when you are in particular shop, and then remember where you are parked afterwards. Not only that, but it can also integrate with your social media platforms such as Facebook. The reality is that search in the future won’t be solely based on a keyword input but will incorporate a series of data points based on your interactions and journeys, both off- and on-line. Similar services are coming soon or are here from Bing, Facebook, and others, but Google has stolen the march on its competitors.

In a separate development, Google is testing providing results in their search results from apps regardless of whether the searcher has the app or not. Previously online content providers had to match website and app content in order to be indexed by Google; this latest development means this will be no longer the case. Google streams a virtual version of the mobile app, meaning the app does not have to be installed on your phone. This technology comes from a start-up called Agawi that Google acquired in 2014. It is currently in beta at the moment in the US but watch this space.

This kind of personalisation and technology advancement can only be a good thing as it will make sure the right messages are served at the most relevant time and place. The real push now is making it more convenient for users, and smartphones are the catalyst in the move away from the traditional search model.

In order to fully leverage this opportunity you need to make sure your brand is visible to as many search technologies as possible. Brands driven by search strategies, for example HE institutions, will face new challenges in making sure they are seen. It may seem more complex then ever to successfully cut through search, but it is all about putting the customer needs at the centre of how you approach it.

Jim Bloor

Micro-moments mould modern marketing

Have you ever picked up your smartphone while you’re in a queue, shopping, commuting or watching TV to check a fact, buy something or find a fix on the fly? These micro-moments offer a new opportunity to engage and an important step towards longer term goals such as recruitment.

In the early part of 2015 Google identified a new consumer behaviour type, called micro-moments. These micro-moments predominantly take place on smartphones and more than likely will involve watching a video.  And it’s not just Google who believe this is happening; Jeffrey Hammond from Forrester says “consumer engagement is shifting toward micro- moments”, whilst digital analyst and futurist Brian Solis of Altimeter Group has written that CMOs need to invest in micro-moments.

Consumers expect brands to address their needs with real-time relevance. People don’t rely on long sit-down sessions at keyboards to make purchases anymore. We reach for our devices to make informed decisions faster then ever before. Although mobile is the catalyst for this change, this phenomenon has implications far beyond mobile; it affects the entire journey across screens, devices and channels.

People making career changes or seeking jobs are no different, with 90% of smartphone users having used their phone to make progress towards a long-term goal or a multi-step process while out and about.

Google has defined micro-moments as instants of high intent and engagement, many of which happen in spare moments, such as waiting in a queue, commuting, preoccupied with something else, with the journey later continuing on either on a mobile, PC or tablet. These are not just distractions but real opportunities to engage.

Google have effectively broken it down into four key areas:


For 2016, employer brands that recognise and fully utilise the opportunity micro-moments present will get ahead of their competition in the war for talent.

Mobile is killing the desktop star


Since the first iPhone was released in 2007, the advent of the age of mobile has been proclaimed. But 2016 is the year that finally holds true: for the first time more searches have been carried out on a mobile device than desktop. Why is this year’s declaration any different from any other year in the last decade? It’s down to Google.


Google has recently held its conference (a bit like Penna’s but no camping and not in Warwickshire) and mobile was at the centre of all of the announcements. The company effectively wants to change the Internet so it is more mobile-centric, and this means a lot of change.

You might have noticed it yourselves for example AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages) which are only available on your mobile:


One massive development is that Google searches now trawl apps too; this means apps can be seen via Google search engine without having the app on your phone. All SEO professionals worth their salt should now be looking at a mobile-first approach for discovery as Google is now prioritising mobile-friendly sites and apps.  Not only this but push messages are available from browsers now not just on Androids but IOS as well on the Mac, with iPhones to follow soon.  Over 10 billion push notifications are sent every day in Chrome and it’s growing quickly; 38% of these were opened too!


Other changes will be coming over the next few months, the most noticeable will be with Google Adwords advertising.

Despite now officially having entered the mobile era, we are still rather worryingly refusing to buy stuff on it; just 7% of purchases of online purchases were made from mobiles in the UK.  The fact of the matter is businesses are lazily stumbling into mobile despite the fact that the appetite to buy things via our mobiles is high. Whether it is a car or a holiday, whatever the value, if we can have good and reliable experience online we will buy it.  So the proverbial ball is in the court of the supplier.

In the context of an employer, mobile is important for potential applicants to consider working for them and for carrying out research. Once a candidate has made the decision to apply they will apply via desktop, mobile or tablet.  However, we don’t really need to make applying for jobs as easy as buying a £5 product on your mobile; the best candidates will spend time on their application and this will usually mean using a laptop or a PC at home.

Career research is about those mobile micro-moments, like commuting to work on a train (if you are lucky enough to get a signal). If it is a job you really want, would you apply for it on a bus on your way into work, or would you want to spend time on your application and tailor it accordingly for the job in question? And more importantly as an employer do we really want to be inundated with hundreds of applications that have just been banged out on a train without much thought?

In the war for talent getting one up on the competition is massively important, but just because candidates can’t apply for a job on a mobile does not automatically mean you are missing a trick.  If that’s the silver lining, the cloud is that if potential candidates can’t access information quickly via their phones you may lose their interest.

Similarly, when targeting students for courses, the majority of course applications are still made on desktops, but mobile is the key device used for researching what course or university to choose. Effectively desktops are used far less in the decision process but come into their own for a better user experience when applying through UCAS.

The importance of mobile is undeniable, but you need to invest time and money to understand where and when your target audience uses it and what for.

Jim Bloor

Google Adwords Reimagined For “The Mobile First World”


Google is rebuilding Adwords from the ground upwards for what it calls the “mobile first world”.

The company is also looking at making it easier for marketers to bridge the digital and physical worlds. With location-related searches growing 50% faster then any other mobile searches, it’s clear that consumers are moving between online and offline experiences seamlessly.

Earlier this year Google Adwords removed right-hand side adverts on desktops to improve the search experience and make it consistent across all devices. This has led to their recent announcement to their biggest change to text adverts in 15 years.

Optimised for screen sizes of the most popular smartphones, new expanded text ads in AdWords provide more ad space so you can showcase more information about your business before the click. Here are the key changes:


These upgrades help your ads work harder across screens, especially for the on-the-go mobile consumer that wants to know exactly what you offer before tapping into your website.

Based on early testing, some advertisers have reported increases in click-through rates of up to 20% compared to current text ads.

Display Adverts on GDN

Responsive ads for display adapt to the diverse content across the more than two million publisher sites and apps on the Google Display Network (GDN). They also unlock new native inventory so you can engage consumers with ads that match the look and feel of the content they’re browsing. Simply provide headlines, a description, an image and a URL, and Google will automatically design beautiful responsive ads.

Google is also extending the reach of GDN remarketing campaigns by giving you access to cross-exchange inventory, which includes more websites and apps around the world.


Device bidding

Google Adwords will offer much more control on device-specific bidding. This lets you anchor your base keyword bid to the device most valuable to your business and then set bid adjustments for each of the other devices. You will also have a wider range to adjust bids, up to +900%.

Nearly one third of all mobile searches are related to location; people’s online and offline worlds are colliding. To help advertisers reach consumers searching for physical business locations, new local search ads across Google.com and Google Maps are being introduced. Advertisers using location extensions will be able to prominently showcase their business locations when consumers search for things like “universities” or “university open days.”

They’re also investing in more branded, customised experiences for businesses on Google Maps, geared towards helping you increase store visits. They are currently developing and experimenting with a variety of ad formats on Maps that make it easier for users to find businesses as they navigate the world around them. For example, Maps users may start to see promoted pins for nearby universities, employers or lunch spots along their driving route. Local business pages are also getting a brand new look.


Attribution Modelling in Adwords

In May Google launched an update to AdWords which gives you the ability to update your attribution model. It’s an update that can help you go beyond last-click measurement – the default in AdWords – and understand your customer’s journey on a much deeper level. As of the beginning of June 2016, this change was rolled out to all AdWords accounts.

By going beyond last-click attribution for your Search ads in AdWords, you can understand your customer journey and make changes to improve your campaigns. Users take a while to make decisions; by changing your approach to attribution you can identify how your advertising affects people across all of their crucial, decision-making moments.

Jim Bloor

Source: This article is based on Inside Google Adwords