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Post by Rich Moy on Feb 27, 2018 12:00:00 PM

Over the last few years, marketers have braced themselves for backlash from ad retargeting. While many experts predict that those negative effects won’t materialize in 2018, advertising to a technical audience requires you to understand how developers feel about retargeting. Based on what we’ve heard, they have some strong opinions about it—and not all of them are positive.

Successful developer marketing campaigns are targeted to a specific audience and convey value to those people. But is it possible to be too relevant? How can advertisers create targeting strategies without turning developers off? Read on to find the answers.

Programmers Find Ad Retargeting Blatant and Off-Putting

Because developers don’t mind ads that could ultimately be useful to them, retargeting might seem like a surefire tactic to put your products in front of the right audience. The problem is that software developers also understand the technology that drives ad retargeting. When it’s clear that an online ad was served to them based on generalizations, they find it to be off-putting.

Gervasio Marchand, a Software Developer here at Stack Overflow, explains that his issue with retargeting isn’t the technology itself. “The thing I struggle with more is knowing that separate systems are sharing my information about what I’m doing online,” he adds. “It’s proof that my data is being shared in a non-explicit way amongst advertisers that want to drive impressions up.”

With this in mind, imagine that you’re promoting a platform that would be ideal for iOS developers. One retargeting idea might serve your ads to anyone that fits the description of a software developer at Apple. You could even consider writing copy specifically for those programmers. As a result, you would end up with a large audience of Apple employees to advertise to, but not all of them would necessarily be mobile developers. In this case, your audience wouldn’t be nearly as relevant as you initially thought—and you’d leave a negative impression on the developers that you reached.

Developers Prefer Ads Based on Site Activity

On the other hand, there’s a significant advantage to advertising to an audience that understands retargeting technology: They tend to be receptive to ads that are shown to them based on their site activity.

Marchand used the example of his Amazon search history to explain this to us. “Let’s say that I purchased a server on their retail system. I’d eventually see ads on Amazon about related products, which I think is great,” he says. “Even if Amazon showed me ads on other sites that I visited about AWS or other servers, that makes sense, too. It’s contextual, useful, and I appreciate it.”

Aaron Doades of Search Engine Land suggests a few tips to create site retargeting campaigns for developers. In particular, his explanation of retargeting based on keyword searches could help you stand out from the competition. He adds, “We could then tailor the ad not only to the specific product category, but also put in a very strong call to action. This enables display ads to take the shape of search in terms of personalization while maintaining the creative opportunities of display advertising.”