Jobs site sets up ‘lab’ for ad experiments

Paul Dervan is testing to see which ads work the best for the multinational

It is "a dream job" for a marketer, according to Paul Dervan. The former head of brand at O2 Ireland is leading a long-term project for jobs site Indeed. com in which he will get to experiment with various advertising concepts and formats, testing them to see which are the most efficient.

Dervan wants his team, known internally as its Marketing Campaign Lab, to have some 50 experiments up and running by the end of March.

“I want to do a lot of small tests – I want to survive failure,” he says. “I have a licence to fail, but I don’t want to fail with large amounts of money.”

Should its ads seek to stir emotions or should they be more drily product- focused? Should its campaigns play out in short bursts or be always-on? Do they need to run in high frequencies to deliver strong recall?


“Lots of companies believe in data and lots of companies believe in studying the return on investment on a campaign, but there is a lot of short-termism about it,” says Dervan – and some degree of lip service.

“What always happens, at least to me, is you’re asked to launch something and launch it quickly.”

Indeed has offices in 19 countries, including Dublin where it employs 230 people and has announced it is hiring 300 more.

“Because Indeed is a software, techy company, there is a culture of testing everything,” says Dervan. The idea is to see which type and form of ads generate the highest rates of either web clicks or downloads and usage of Indeed’s app.

One ad in development that he plans to test on Facebook next year, and possibly on Irish television, is an animated depiction of a man so happy about the job he has found through that his alarm clock triggers an outbreak of moonwalking.

Indeed’s corporate marketing team likes to “take the positive spin” and focus on the glorious future that a person could have if they found the right job, rather than dwell on how miserable their current one is, so Dervan abides by this when testing his own ads.

Still, Indeed’s data hints at the emotional turmoil that often prompts a job hunt.

“People are searching for jobs in the middle of the night. They are applying for them in the middle of the night,” says Dervan. “What’s going on there? Does that mean they’re on a night shift, or has looking for a job been something that’s been on their minds?”

The Indeed interface is a simple one with just two boxes: “what” (type of job) and “where” (location). “A huge number of people don’t type anything in ‘what’, they just fill in the ‘where’. I’m fascinated by that.”

Mondays remain the peak day for job searches, but the rise of mobile and tablet devices means the busy period is no longer confined to the 9am-11am stretch. Thanks to mobile searches, Indeed’s traffic now picks up at 7am.

While the company is keen on Facebook advertising, “which makes sense”, Dervan doesn’t believe in only targeting digital: ads in other channels have a role in giving brands their salience. Although one test with a 15-second radio ad, shorter than the usual 30 seconds, “did badly”, he says, he is now experimenting with 60 seconds. “I really want to do something with fly posters,” he adds.

But there is only so much science that can be applied to advertising. Sometimes one creative idea triumphs and another one fails for reasons that cannot be anticipated or articulated.

“I don’t think you can find an exact formula for home runs all the time,” says Dervan. “But you can find a formula to get better.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics