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Post by Rich Moy on Mar 20, 2018 12:00:00 PM

Online ad technology has come a long way since the first banner ads appeared in 1984. There are endless possibilities for marketers that want to engage with niche audiences, increase awareness of their products, and drive sales.

But software developers have always been a uniquely challenging target audience for advertisers. Sure, they’ve made no secret of the fact that they don’t mind seeing ads that are relevant to them. But there are a few ad formats that developers just can’t stand, even when those advertisements convey value to them.

To advertise to developers, you need to know which marketing tactics turn them off. Let’s take a closer look at three types of online ads that developers hate.

Full-Site Ads With Countdown Timers

We recently explored whether or not advertisers can convince developers to turn off ad blockers. Our conclusion: It’s very possible, but not if you force them to do anything. The same can be true of any online ad that takes away developers’ control over their web experience—and full-site ads with timers are the best example.

But if a website’s content is valuable to developers, won’t they just close the ad to view it? Perhaps they’ll do this once or twice if they want to access the content behind a full-site ad. But in our 2018 State of Developer Engagement report, over 61% of developers said that they stopped going to a website because of their advertising.

What does this mean for you? Static images and marketing copy without buzzwords might not be as exciting to you, but they’re more effective at engaging developers than the latest innovations in full-site ads.

Ads That Look Like Organic Content

Misleading ads have burned most developers in the past. While native ads have become mainstream, developers still view it as a dishonest marketing tactic. Considering that one of the keys to advertising to developers is building trust with them, you should avoid this marketing tactic with technical audiences.


Still, there’s good news. Developers don’t expect marketers to disguise their ads! Instead, write ad copy that tells them how your product works, what they should expect from a beta program, and examples of how other programmers have used your platform.

Ads With Stolen or Borrowed Brand Identity

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right? In most cases, probably—but not when it comes to advertising to developers. Remember, there are three common traits in ads that engage developers. They’re trustworthy, they’re honest about their goals, and they’re from companies that developers like. Borrowing your competitor’s brand identity might save you from doing the heavy lifting to advertise to developers, but there are obvious negatives to this marketing tactic.

Andy LaPointe of SmallBusinessBranding says that there’s absolutely no incentive for marketers to borrow another company’s brand identity. “You should [only] steal your competitors’ marketing ideas and brand identity for the following reasons,” he continues. “You want to completely destroy your company’s unique selling advantage. You want to lose your own brand identity. You don’t have any original and creative ideas. You want to get sued for copyright and trademark infringement.”

Sure, it would be much easier to pick and choose from the brand identities that you admire. But to reach developers, it’s important to be as honest as possible—even when your messaging or creatives aren’t as flashy or impressive as the competition.dev engagment report