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Some think programmatic advertisers help create marketing content, when in fact their job is wholly focused on the buying of digital ad space.

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Job: Programmatic advertiser

The role: To strategically automate the buying and placement of digital ads, leveraging data to reach highly targeted audiences. The objective is to get the most out of every digital advertising dollar by only serving ads to specific audience segments.

"Say a bank wants to promote a credit card, and the bank knows which of its clients already have that card, they can create data sets that list which customers do or don't have the card," said Yuli Shumsky, the director of digital marketing for Canadian Imperial Bank Of Commerce.

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"This is all done in a programmatic platform of some sort, which could be Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook or one of the many that are out there."

Junior programmatic advertising roles typically involve a lot of "grunt work," he said, including data entry and paperwork. As they gain more experience, programmatic advertisers typically see their roles expand to include strategy, sales, client relations and employee management.

Salary: As a field that puts significant value on job experience, salaries in the industry tend to start relatively low, but can grow quickly. An entry-level programmatic co-ordinator typically earns between $30,000 and $45,000 a year, according to Mr. Shumsky, adding that junior employees are largely responsible for "jobs nobody else wants to do." From there, co-ordinators can be promoted to programmatic analysts, often earning between $45,000 and $60,000 annually.

"That's where you're actually starting to run campaigns and work on the platform more, you're starting to work on the strategy more, you're starting to work with data a lot more, and at that point you'd become a little more client-facing, doing customer service," he said. "From there you can become a programmatic specialist, which is more in the decision-making sphere, rather than just execution."

Mr. Shumsky adds that specialists typically go a step beyond customer service, providing feedback and helping clients with decisions on how to best spend ad budgets. He said the average salary for programmatic advertising specialists is between $70,000 and $90,000 a year.

"If you lead a larger team, maybe you're looking at a bit over $90,000, but it'll likely be below $100,000," he said. "Then if you want to get into a managerial role, that's less platform buying and more overall strategy, driving the direction for clients and lines of business. Those roles earn anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000."

Mr. Shumsky added that while the ladder may be long employees typically reach the next rung within two to three years.

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Education: As a relatively new field, educational opportunities are few and, in Mr. Shumsky's view, less beneficial than on-the-job experience. "School can show you a platform, but you will not actually run a meaningful campaign, because the school is not going to put $1-million into the platform just to show you how to run a campaign."

Instead, employers in the field put a greater value on diversity of experience, both within and beyond educational institutions. "If you have search engine [advertising] experience, that counts. If you have Facebook [advertising] experience, that counts. I would look at those things when hiring someone over their schooling," said Mr. Shumsky.

Job prospects: Job opportunities for programmatic advertisers in Canada are plentiful and only expected to grow. According to a study by Nielsen, almost half of Canadian digital advertisers are already buying more than half of their advertisements programmatically, and one third of Canadian advertisers intend to increase their programmatic advertising budgets in the coming year. "That's where the whole industry is going, so jobs will be increasing," said Mr. Shumsky.

Challenges: According to Mr. Shumsky, the most challenging period of a programmatic advertiser's career comes right at the beginning, which can come as a shock for those new to the industry. "You've got to be willing to get in and do the grunt work for not really high pay."

Why they do it: Programmatic advertisers enjoy being pioneers and innovators in a field that is widely believed to be the future of digital advertising.

Misconceptions: As a relatively new industry, Mr. Shumsky says there's still a lot of confusion about what programmatic advertising is. For example, some are of the impression that programmatic advertisers help create marketing content, when in fact their job is wholly focused on the buying of digital ad space.

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