Employer Branding Recruitment Marketing

7 Steps to Programmatic Employer Brand Advertising

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Profile photo of Shavonne Thomas
Written by Shavonne Thomas

Learn how to effectively use programmatic advertising to market your employer brand. Hear how programmatic ads works and see examples from an AstraZeneca Recruitment Marketing campaign that delivered results.

7 Steps to Programmatic Employer Brand Advertising
4.8 (96%) 5 votes

We’ve all heard the expression by now that candidates are also consumers, which means they have the same expectations of their job hunt experience that consumers have when shopping online.

So, if that holds true, then something we need to talk about more in Recruitment Marketing is the fact that to meet candidate expectations, we need to start adopting more consumer marketing approaches!

One of the consumer marketing approaches that has been coming into the world of Recruitment Marketing is programmatic advertising.

You may have heard about programmatic before in relation to programmatic job advertising, which is a great start. In this blog post though, I’m going to share another use of programmatic and retargeting ads which is to market employer brand content rather than jobs.

Distributing brand ads rather than job ads can be a really effective approach if you’re looking to build employer brand awareness or market for a series of roles instead of just one specific position.

But before I explain the outcomes and steps for building a programmatic campaign, let me break down how programmatic ads work in a bit more detail.

What is programmatic advertising?

In simple terms, programmatic advertising is a type of advertising that relies on software, rules and algorithms to purchase, target and distribute ad units.

With programmatic job advertising, the ad units are promoting jobs. These job ads are distributed to a range of job boards and other websites where your target candidates may be browsing. Based on wherever the job ad is performing best, the programmatic software begins to allocate more and more spend towards those websites until you reach your advertising goal.

The beauty of this approach is that you don’t need to be an expert on every job board or about every talent pool on the planet, and you also don’t need to keep track of which sites are performing best — the programmatic software does this for you.

If you want to learn more about programmatic job ads specifically, watch this short 14-minute video called It’s Not Magic, It’s Programmatic Job Advertising, presented by Brandon Luiszer from Love’s Travel Stops at our RallyFwd™ Virtual Conference.

There is also a second way you can use programmatic advertising in recruiting that hasn’t received as much coverage yet — and that’s programmatic advertising that markets your employer brand content as the primary ad unit.

As an example, these programmatic ads might feature copy from your employee value proposition or a team value proposition along with an attention-grabbing image. The programmatic advertising software works by targeting these creative ads to prospective candidates where they spend time online — on news, shopping and social media sites — in order to make candidates aware of your company as a potential employer.

What are retargeting ads?

The easiest way to explain retargeting advertising is through a concrete example.

Let’s say you’re shopping online at Macy’s. You look at a blue shirt on the site. You’re interested, you look at the price, you’re not sure. You decide you aren’t ready to make the purchase right now.

From there, you go to another site to get an update on the news. And — lo and behold — in the sidebar you see the shirt from Macy’s you’ve just been looking at! Later, you might be browsing Facebook and you’ll see the shirt again — but this time in three different color options.

What’s happened here is that because you spent time on the Macy’s website but didn’t make a purchase, you were targeted again to pull you back in to finish the action that you started.

This is a retargeting ad in action — which is a specific type of programmatic advertising, since software is being used to run the show.

In the Recruitment Marketing world, this would happen to candidates who visit your careers site but don’t actually submit an application. The software knows this because every page they visit on your careers site is tracked, and the software can detect that the candidate didn’t reach the application confirmation page. Then, the candidate would be retargeted with one of your ads where they’re spending time online, until (hopefully!) they come back to finish their application.

Programmatic brand advertising campaign example

Ready to meet and exceed your candidates’ expectations? Learn how to effectively use programmatic advertising to market your employer brand.

Building out a branded programmatic campaign

So, if you like the idea of reaching candidates where they spend time online outside of the typical go-to platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed, here are the steps you can follow to set up your own programmatic campaign to market your employer brand.

Step 1 – Identify your goal

First, as with any type of campaign, you’ll want to spend time thinking about what you’re trying to achieve. Some common goals might include:

  • Building general brand awareness with a certain talent demographic
  • Boosting applicant numbers for a specific job family
  • Starting to build a pipeline in a new geographic market

Ideally, for some of these goals you might want to think about what success might look like numerically too. For example, how many applicants or leads do you want to attract, at a minimum?

Answering these questions and getting alignment on your goals with internal stakeholders is a great starting place that will help to inform the rest of the decisions you make before launching your campaign.

Step 2 – Choose a vendor

Once you know what you’re looking to achieve with your programmatic campaign, it’s time to pick a vendor to help you reach your goals.

There are several vendors and agencies that specialize in programmatic job advertising, including Appcast, Recruitics, Symphony Talent and TMP. Some of them can also work with you on creating a programmatic employer brand ad campaign. In addition, there are general marketing vendors like Quantcast, Adroll and Retargeter you can use.

You can do some research though and find a programmatic solution that feels like the right fit for you. Take a couple of calls and make sure that you work well with the team who will be helping you to execute on your campaign. Also, consider whether you need access to just the technology platform or you need support creating the ads as well.

Step 3 – Set your budget

Once your vendor is selected, you can share your goal and the outcomes you’re looking to achieve and have them help you to figure out a budget that makes sense.

You can also approach this from the opposite perspective — where you let the vendor know how much money you have to work with and they’ll let you know what sort of outcomes might be doable with the budget you have access to. Remember to communicate this information back to your internal team to ensure everyone knows what to expect.

Step 4 – Develop the creative

Once you’ve set the budget with your vendor, you’ll have an idea of the types of ads you’ll have access to. For example, will your ads be static (one image) or dynamic (flipping between a set of images)? Will you have just banner ads or a combo of different ad types? Will you also be able to include short video ads in your programmatic campaign with the budget you’ve set?

Once these details are locked down, you will know the specifications (sizing) for each ad and can work with a creative team — either internal or external or with the help of the vendor you chose — to develop the creative collateral that will appear in front of your target demographic.

Step 5 – Target your ads

Before your ads go live, you’ll also need to work with your vendor to set the exact targeting criteria that will determine who your ads appear in front of.

You can get pretty granular in the targeting criteria you set. Most vendors will be able to target by location, skill set, background, industry and more.

If you’ve already developed candidate personas, it can be a great idea to use these in your conversations when deciding who to target. Your vendor will be able to use this information to drill down and get your ads in front of the right eyeballs.

Candidat persona template and examplesRally note: If you want more information on how to develop candidate personas, you can take a look at the Rally blog: Your Guide to Creating Candidate Personas, or download our Candidate Persona Template and Examples.

Step 6 – Decide where you want to send candidates

Before going live, the other thing you’ll want to think through is the campaign journey. Where do you want to send prospective candidates that click on your ad?

You might consider sending them to your careers site or to a specific campaign landing page or to a recruiting event registration page, depending on the goals you set for the campaign and what actions you want them to take after seeing the ad.

Rally best practice: Wherever you send candidates, be sure there is a way for them to opt-in and share their contact information with you, such as by signing up for job alerts or joining your talent network. When they fill out a form, that’s a conversion!

AstraZeneca landing page example

Consider creating a landing page or recruiting event registration page for your candidates’ journey.

Step 7 – Track your outcomes

Last, but certainly not least, you want to track the outcomes of your efforts!

At the end of a campaign run, your vendor will provide you with the number of impressions and a list of top sites where your programmatic ads performed best.

The impressions can help you understand the brand awareness raised from the campaign. And, if you have the right source tags in place in your ATS, you can then track which new leads came in from the sites listed to see how your campaign performed from a lead generation or applicant standpoint.

Wondering what the results might look like more concretely? From a recent programmatic campaign I’ve managed, we observed a few million impressions over a 3-4 month period, along with 100,000s of clicks. Given our brand awareness building goals for the campaign, my team saw this as a real success!

However, in addition to achieving our primary goal of building brand awareness, we also noticed a boost in leads, applicants and hires during the campaign.

Programmatic Ads Takeaway

All around, my takeaways from using programmatic to date are that this can be an effective tool for marketing your employer brand. The fact that the software automatically delivers your ads to the most effective spots, and that these ads are reaching prospective candidates where they are already spending time online (beyond typical job sites), makes this a super effective approach for driving passive talent to take action.

I hope these steps prove helpful for you if you’ve been thinking about giving programmatic advertising a try too! Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know how things go. I’m rooting for you!

7 Steps to Programmatic Employer Brand Advertising
4.8 (96%) 5 votes

About the Author

Profile photo of Shavonne Thomas

Shavonne Thomas

Shavonne Thomas is the Employment Brand Manager at Exelon where she delivers brand and marketing solutions to tell authentic employee stories that influence quality hires. Shavonne previously served as the North America Employer Brand & Recruitment Marketing Partner for AstraZeneca, and has held recruitment marketing roles at Accenture and Booz Allen where she learned the impact of telling authentic employee stories to influence quality hires. Shavonne has been in talent acquisition for more than 15 years, with roles in recruiting, employment training and diversity programs before finding her passion in recruitment marketing 6 years ago.

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