Skip to content

Programmatic vs. Recruitment Marketing Agency: Comparison and Analysis

Kim Drinkall August 26, 2022

Programmatic recruitment advertising is the latest fad in talent sourcing. Still, there is a lot of confusion about how it works, why it works better for some companies than others, and how it directly compares to agency paid-media management. Let’s break it down and compare the two.

What is Programmatic Advertising?What is Programmatic Marketing?

At its most basic level, programmatic advertising is the practice of buying and selling digital ad space in real-time to maximize exposure to the ideal target audience. Advertisers are constantly vying for the consumer’s attention and looking for ways for their product or service to stand out in the crowd.

With programmatic advertising, decisions for where and when ads will be placed to yield the highest Return on Investment (ROI) are based on an algorithm using consumer data, including age, career, interests, location, and other hyper-specific information.

Programmatic Recruitment Advertising

Programmatic recruitment advertising platforms harness the power of programmatic advertising to get job postings in front of interested candidates on job boards and social media platforms. With the battle for attention constantly raging and the number of job postings increasing by 54% compared to pre-pandemic baselines, getting these listings on the right job boards at the right time is a top priority. So, what’s not to like? It almost sounds too good to be true. However, for some companies taking this plunge, their programmatic recruitment advertising endeavors aren’t providing the fairytale ending they expect.

How Does Programmatic Recruitment Advertising Work?

Who is the man behind the curtain? Programmatic recruitment advertising comprises four working pieces: data analytics, job ad targeting, dynamic budget allocation and bidding, and campaign optimization.


Big data analyticsBig Data Analytics

Data analytics collect statistics from individuals over time and then use that information to predict future outcomes based on past trends. The movie Moneyball is based on a true story where the main character, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), introduces data analytics to baseball with the help of his analytics guy, Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill). He believed that by using statistical analysis, he could predict future sporting outcomes. These outcomes, of course, are affected by variables. After the initial jeering and doubt by everyone in the baseball world, data analytics made their non-contender team into a championship team through the power of math! *You hear that? That’s the sound of cheering high school math teachers everywhere.* Data analytics are now widely used with sporting teams of all kinds.

This is precisely how data analytics work for programmatic recruitment advertising, except it’s automated through Artificial Intelligence (AI) instead of Jonah Hill and his calculator. The longer the data is collected from users, the more the program learns and, therefore, the more precise predictions become. This allows recruiting teams to get an idea of how their campaign will do, the budget to be expected, and many other valuable insights.


Job ad targeting

This is where the hyper-specific data we discussed earlier comes into effect. The algorithm uses collected data of job seekers’ past behavior to analyze previous trends and determine the ideal time and platform to show that job ad to ensure maximum effectiveness.


Dynamic budget allocation and bidding

Budget allocation with programmatic recruitment advertising is generally made on a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-application (CPA) basis. This means that the budget used for a programmatic job listing is defined by the customer but allocated by the AI. It sounds risky, but ideally, since the audience will be specifically relevant to the listing and the ad will be migrating to the most pertinent sites during the most relevant times, it should keep the budget much more in check than the traditional route of committing to a paid ad on a specific platform and hoping the right person comes across it.


Campaign optimization

Campaign optimization is the learning aspect of the programmatic approach. As the algorithm collects data on performance, it will continually assess and readjust to optimize performance. This is the essence of programmatic advertising.


Programmatic vs. Agency

Programmatic Recruitment Advertising vs. Agency Recruitment Marketing

Directly comparing the two methods, we’ve noted these specific areas of strength and weakness for each:

Candidate flow

When jumping into programmatic recruitment advertising, companies will see an immediate drop in candidate flow because the machine is learning the positions, job boards, and job seeker behaviors. The AI becomes more intelligent as time passes, but the initial flow of candidates significantly decreases. This can be very challenging for companies that need to hire quickly.

Recruitment marketing agencies can quickly set up and optimize pay-per-click campaigns and assess if modifications need to be made. The agencies take a hands-on approach to managing sponsored campaigns to ensure that candidate flow does not falter. If there are areas requiring more applicants, they can make changes to the jobs, the spend, and the delivery methods.


Performance recommendations

Making a successful hire is a culmination of the entire recruitment campaign, not just the job listing.

Programmatic organizations do not provide a high level of performance-improving recommendations to a campaign. They will speak to changing the job title or adding more keywords, but the recommendations for improvement are isolated to keyword and geography additions and platform changes.

Agencies can assess competition in the market, see what ad content is working for others, pinpoint top keywords for a specific market, etc., and suggest improvements based on those findings. This, in addition to assessing where there might be foundational weaknesses in a recruitment marketing campaign, such as a poorly constructed career website or a misleading employer brand, makes the overall assessment very valuable while programmatic AI focuses on the microcosm of the job posting.


Job board restrictions 

Job boards limit the pool of applicants via restrictions around the job title and a built-in distance limit based on the location the employer reports. These parameters naturally limit clicks and applications for any given job listing. Programmatic recruitment advertising companies have been working around these restrictions by listing a job in multiple neighboring cities to expand the area applicants can be located or by listing the job under numerous job titles to gain more clicks and applicants.

These methods have allowed Programmatic companies to create lower CPCs because their listings pull in more applicants than they should, which counterbalances the relatively low CPC rate. However, job board websites are cracking down on these loophole methods. For example, as of July 1, 2022, Indeed no longer allows single positions to be attached to expanded geographies and titles. It is now a one-for-one model, meaning only one posting is allowed for each acquisition. So, what will the ripple effects of these new restrictions be? It could be higher CPCs and lower applicants. Time will tell.



The cost is relatively the same from a budget perspective. Programmatic dashboards try to limit the CPC to promote more positions within a campaign, sometimes rendering them less competitive in the market and contributing to candidate flow loss. Programmatic’s big draw is the ability to boast low CPCs, but sometimes it’s prudent to be more competitive on the CPC to get exposure when it’s a hard-to-fill position or location.

Regarding budget planning, programmatic has the upper hand as one budget can be used while the AI posts across multiple job boards and platforms. In contrast, recruitment marketing agencies have a separate budget for each platform they post on.


Where’s My Happily Ever After?pexels-rodolfo-quirós-2219024

Maybe you’re here, and you already made your choice when Morpheus offered you the red or blue pill. You took one and committed to programmatic, but have found it’s not giving you the exciting results it seems to be giving everyone else. Perhaps recent job board restrictions (like what Indeed has implemented) are starting to affect your ROI. It’s time to take a look below the surface.

When building a house, there must be a strong foundation. The same is true of recruitment marketing. You must lay the groundwork before venturing into any recruitment system. When those foundation pillars are missing or weak, the whole endeavor can crumble. Let’s dig a little deeper into what problems recruitment strategies might face on the foundation level.


Candidates see my job ads, but applications are low

This could indicate a problem with the career website. 64% of candidates said they research a company online after finding a job opening, and 37% indicated they would move on if they couldn't find information on the company. The career website is the crucial first impression you make to potential candidates. A robust career website is user-friendly, informative, and shows the user the overarching narrative about the company while collecting data about visitors and allowing a follow-up with those visitors. Mitigate avoidable applicant loss by providing a great first impression with a robust career website.


I’m not happy with the quality of our candidates and hires

Media optimization, or in other words, capitalizing upon the limited contact a job posting has with the job seeker, is critical. When a job description doesn't accurately represent the job duties, location, or qualifications required for the specific role, applications can flood in from the wrong candidates. With a corporate job posting attracting an average of 250 applications and resulting in a mere four to six interviews, it’s easy to see some mismatches in the quality of who is sought and the candidates that apply.


New hire turnover is high

This points to an issue with the employer brand. 86% of job seekers look into company ratings and reviews before deciding whether to apply for that job post. Hence, an authentic employer brand that effectively communicates who you are as an organization is essential. When an aspirational image of the company is projected, rather than an accurate depiction of the current environment, new employees will feel duped, leading to new hire turnover. Getting actively involved with ratings and reviews online to add context to those comments allows potential employees to get a more fully formed view; in fact, 7 out of 10 people surveyed indicated they had changed their mind about a company after seeing how they responded to a review. Uncover your true employer brand to attract the right people for your culture.


Wicresoft: A Better Agency Experience

pexels-jopwell-2422293Wicresoft offers comprehensive talent acquisition solutions. Starting at the foundation, Wicresoft offers career website builds and management, employer branding, and recruitment social media management. Wicresoft goes directly to the source, offering the best of both worlds of programmatic advertising and agency recruitment marketing strategies and proven media optimization. Wicresoft's Talent Acquisition experts make talent acquisition more efficient and effective.

Wicresoft’s services are contract-free, and our Indeed services are available at no cost. We work with Indeed, not against them. This symbiotic relationship allows us to assess results and adjust to maximize ROI. Our experts partner with the client’s existing HR/TA/Marketing teams to tailor each job requisition to the team's specifications.

Find out more about Wicresoft’s offerings by looking at our website or scheduling a free assessment below.